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WEbook's superstore for talking shop: colons vs. semicolons; dialogue format; point of view. And everything in between.
Posted: 8/24/2013 1:08 AM PDT
Standing alone she watch him disappear into the distance the wave splashed her toes.
' Please look back'
She stare after him; he never did. It was over her life was over as she had knew it.
Setting the scene requires thinking about where you would like it,
A Police office
On an island.
Don't forget to to research on the kind of place you choose.
Hope this helps.
Posted: 5/26/2013 10:16 PM PDT
I have the opposite problem. I have plenty of dialog. I move my story more with dialog than I do with narration. I think I need to paint the background better.
If you are having problems with dialog just start listening to other people (don't get caught). Bars, restaurants, school cafeteria, in general, where people hang out.
Listen to someone talking on the phone. You only get one side of the conversation so try to imagine what's on the other side.
Don't get caught up in the 'He said', 'She said' mode. Use phrases that express a mood or an emotion.
Posted: 8/3/2011 12:36 PM PDT
My dialogue tips is I say it out load (every person's speech) before I put it on paper. And I think, "What does this add to my story?" or "Does this sound natural?"
Posted: 4/17/2011 12:42 PM PDT
Have you ever walked in on a conversation and you've missed the introductions, the fluff and scene-setting and now you're at the heart of the conversation - but you're not so late that you can't piece it back together from what you're hearing?
That's where I start my dialogue if possible.
I find dialogue so natural that it's difficult for me to begin scenes with narration rather than dialogue. I almost envy your problem.
"No, I'm saying I can't finish this scene"
"oh... why? I read that bit I thought it was fine"
"You thought it was fine that at this crucial moment, her lover just walks up and says 'you look nice'? Is that what you'd say to me if we went through everything these characters have?"
"Well, what's he supposed to say then?"
"Just forget it. My jeans look fine, my story sounds fine, I ask if you want to go out for lunch and you say 'fine.' Is there nothing you'd rate higher than 5 out of 10 in your world?"
"No, don't. I'll ask Sarah to lunch and she can look it over. There's leftovers in the fridge but I'm sure you'll be FINE."
I didn't need to introduce the characters for you to know they were a couple, she's writing a story and asking him to review it, he's a louse who doesn't really care about her story (or can't cause he's that kind of unemotional guy), she's high strung, etc.
For the dragon challenge I wrote the whole thing in dialogue save the last line to wrap it up. Everyone is different, everyone's varied social experiences lend or detract from the requisite skill necessary to produce good dialogue.
But if it can help - try writing a dialogue only short story such as the one above where the characters come to life without introduction yet where the dialogue remains natural and does not degrade into narration.
I suppose I agree with the other poster's here who say read your most engaging authors again, watch dialogue-centric movies (SLC Punk comes to mind) and practice. But it's almost antithetical to 'practice' WRITING dialogue when you should honestly be practicing dialogue itself. Imagine you're overhearing two of your friends having this conversation. You're picking up detail from the conversation because you're smart enough to do so - so is your reader.
Posted: 4/16/2011 6:43 PM PDT
I am working on my first novel and felt that writing dialog was very easy. I was discussing this with my dad, who is also working on his first book although he's done a lot of writing for fun in the past.
Since both of our experiences are limited, we didn't come up with a certain analysis, but here's one thing that might have made a difference. My book is written in first persona and 'I" am a very talkative person, so dialog just flowed.
My dad's book is based upon a "found" journal so by definition, is based upon description rather than active conversation. He is trying to write the interspersed conversation, but just stuck on finding the voices of the characters.
So I told him something I read in James Frey's How to Write a Damn Good Novel - interview your characters, write down the questions you would ask and their answers. It's all dialog so might help you find your characters voices.
The other thing you might try is in a side document, redo the scene in first person, maybe that will help!
Oh, I saw the comment about McCormack - I tried to read All the Pretty Horses and haven't made it past page 4! I love horses, seemed like enough, but this book is written in a way that I absolutely cannot read. There are no quotes! Even though people are talking. That is horrible. If I am bored reading a book, I start scanning for quotes because people talking moves the story forward (or should) and can often be much easier to read because it's written how people talk, not think when they're trying to add fluff or word count or something. In the first 4 pages, McCormack has 2 sentences that are 12-15 lines long!!!! I never did figure out the subject and verb! And people rave about this book?
Anyhow, I know this comment is way later than the original post, but maybe it will help someone!
Posted: 4/9/2011 7:35 AM PDT
I read it outloud , even have someone else read it to me and look for the natural tones, falls and pauses in the conversation.
Reading both good and bad dialogue is very helpful. I think it write it, you have to recognize it.
Posted: 3/16/2011 11:08 AM PST
I love dialogue, it's like playing a practical joke on someone you either hate or love. You set your character up and separate the POV of the writer and the character. I try to get blah and bland conversation overwith before engaging the dialogue. Use of internal dialogue is usually more much crisper than what a person would actually say and it is a good place to hid things from two opposing characters.
Having met her new boss for the first time, Celeste was at odds with what her first impression was. He wasn't exactly eye candy, but he had an aura of self confidence that could go either way. "He's looking at me as if I was fish bait. This is not going to be a good interview. Celeste tried to remain calm under extreme scrutiny. (Here I have used internal dialogue to set the tone for Celeste, note that I use narrative and dialogue to set the mood)
Sean was hiring a temp, not a stripper. He was expecting a dowdy middle aged woman that weighted in at no less than 250 pounds. The woman sitting before him was what? Elegant, beautiful, and so far, intimidating. He thought to himself, "If she thinks she's going to walk all over me she's probably right. I have to do something." (Again, this is the use of internal dialogue and narrative to spring the trap and the conflict that is about to happen) ( I skip over the hi and handshake, she takes a seat because the reader expects this part.and are ready for the clash of thought to come at them at the speed of light.
Sean looks up from the resume that he has already memorized and said, "Ms. Remy, You do understand that the position with my law firm is only temporary? Sue Welling is my priceless right Arm and she has decided to give my arm back to me to have a baby."
"Celeste noticed that her new boss was twisting his Harvard class ring which made her think, 'another ring knocking hot shot.' "I'm aware of that. I just finished sitting for the New York State bar and I'm awaiting the results."
"Shouldn't you be downtown, working with a more prestigious firm. You don't show much ambition."
Celeste decided on being tactful to the insinuated insult. "You come highly recommended and I need to gain some experience before I throw my self to the wolves." (note the attitude and motion)
"Do you always dress that way?"
"Call me Sean, it works better. You're wearing the same dress that you wore yesterday and to be frank you look like one of the church ladies that goes to mass with my mother. Office attire is strictly business attire." Sean thought the remark would take the wind out of her sail.
The twerp was intentionally attacking her fabric as a woman. Celeste shifts uncomfortably in the hot seat. "Sean, it's the only nice dress that I own. I have rent and overdue college loans. I don't have a wardrobe." (There is tension rising, but the dialogue masks each others thoughts. notice body language.)
Sean had just put his foot in his mouth and knew it. He hit the intercom button and sue answered. (Note that I left out "Yes Sean, or yes boss. keep the action moving) "Sue make an advance for Ms. Remy for say... for a thousand dollars. Ms. Remy has a wardrobe problem. Put it in the ledger as a sign on bonus."
"Sue snapped back, "Way to go cheapskate."
Sean sat back satisfied that he had redeemed himself.
Incensed, Celeste said, "Since you have already spent my advance, can I ask what my wages will be?" (At this point you can take the dialogue to many corners of the planet, confrontation, appeasement, nuetrality, or hidden hostility, take your choice.
The use of internal and external dialogue lets the characters strenghts and weakness develop without the intervention of the author.
Let me know what you think. I have a project called Caesars Cat.
Posted: 2/23/2011 6:00 PM PST
I think you're right--I found that trying to write screenplays helps--now I've been criticized for having too much dialogue
Posted: 2/13/2011 11:28 AM PST
These dialog threads are great. I should try to reproduce one from the afternoon I decided on my hometown of the last 30 years. This woman I was traveling with and I were sitting down on the end of Frances st., arguing over nothing, as usual.
This guy who identified himself as Jerry excused himself and offered to share a joint with us if we'd shut up and stop arguing.
Posted: 2/13/2011 6:50 AM PST
Instead of trying to replicate what people actually say, try watching a good movie. Every second has to count in a movie, so dialogue tends to be sparse. There's no "Hi. How are you?" No fluff. Every line has to count.
Posted: 1/20/2011 7:05 PM PST
I write in the dark a lot and usually with my mp3 player on so that I can drown out everybody and everything else. This helps with the paragraphs AND dialogue. Dialogue is something that's easy for me for many reasons, but that's a whole other story. Dialogue doesn't have to be hard and it can be super fun. If you've run out of things for your two characters to say then don't be afraid to turn the convo into something less important but still on the subject so that it doesn't get boring and you don't end up droning on. Know when to end the conversation and know how to. This can be easily done by reading stories with a lot of dialogue or getting into random conversations with people you usually don't talk to. That will help you with getting past the I-don't-know-what-to-say problem and will also show up in your writing.
Posted: 5/29/2010 8:58 PM PDT
Boring dialogue happens when your characters have nothing to say - or, more specifically, when they have no investment in the scene you've placed them in.
Situation 1: Imagine that your protag is standing in a busy bank lobby while waiting for his friend to pay a phone bill. What does protag say to the guard standing against the wall?
Situation 2: Imagine that your protag is standing in a busy bank lobby while waiting for his friend to finish robbing the place at gun-point. What does protag say to the guard standing against the wall?
In the first case, protag has no investment in the scene. There is no real reason for him to be there, so you, as writer, have no idea what he should be saying. In the second case, it is hard to NOT think of a million things he might say - all of which are likely more interesting than "Hi. How are you?"
The trick to writing good dialogue is not actually about writing dialogue at all. It's about creating a scene or situation in which to place your characters so that the dialogue writes itself. I'm not saying that this is an easy thing to do, but if you try it, you'll find that suddenly, your dialogue starts to sparkle. Especially if your characters each have a different agenda in the situation you've given them.
Posted: 5/22/2010 9:53 PM PDT
Dialogue - say it aloud. If it sounds stilted, it probably is.
Posted: 4/10/2010 6:22 PM PDT
One more thing: don't forget about non verbal communication. Eyebrow raises and shrugs can speak more than any quotation.
Posted: 4/10/2010 6:19 PM PDT
This is something that is easy for me. What I try to do is literally have the conversation. I literally imagine myself as the character, imagine what I am seeing, imagine how I would react to seeing that, etc. That is some difficult thinking, I know. It took me a long time to learn.
So, when you want to write dialogue, think of where your characters are. Who is around them? How do they feel about each other and why? Who do they like or dislike? Do their friends have different opinions? You could put all of this into dialogue.
All stories have some problem that the characters have to solve. What does each of your characters know about the problem? How can their individual strengths help to solve the problem? How would they discuss solving this problem?
One tip I can give you: don't worry about complete, correct English. Everyone slips into slang. Unless you want your character to be extremely proper, let their word choice be creative. If the character is supposed to be stupid, make them ask stupid questions in broken English. A big part of dialogue is really getting into your characters' heads and knowing how they think and feel - make their words match their personality.
If you can master this, I'm sure you'll be a really great author. Some of the best works I have read combine the good prose with the good dialogue. But you have to work to find that balance.
Posted: 4/10/2010 4:14 PM PDT
It is right that some dialogue feels flat and emotionless.
Think what would you say if you were that possition you wouldn't say
" That girl in the green dress over there by the blue lampost, on the swing is thinking about her lazy boyfriend Jason."
Try taking it like you or I would be talking;
Emilly and Sally meet each other in the park,
" Who is that Lady standing over there?"
" ...Which lady?"
" The one in the Emerald green dress."
" Oh her! Just take no notice..."
" Why?" Sally raises an eyebrow;
" She is thinking of her useless fool of a husband."
" Oh you mean Jason." Sally Pauses
" Yeah he is a right ass!"
Both girls laugh and move off.
That sounds more natural now.
Anger is a different matter;
Emilly and Sally met in the park.
" I can't used the swing!"
" Why not Sally"
" It's that lady she is hoggin it. " Sally pauses
" I wanted to have a swing!"
" There is nothing you can do. " Emilly pauses.
" She will not be moved."
" But this is a public park!"
" Her husband Sally."
" Yes him."
" Yeah I'll have my swing tomorrow."
Laughter and they leave
or in a different situatuion....
See if you guess who the anger is towards.
" What! You did what!?"
" I told you I had no idea it was an oficer."
" He was wearing a badge!"
" How can you miss that!"
" .......I am in hot water now aren't I ?"
" ...They'll be after you now."
" Help me Mat. Please"
" No!" Mat pauses
" You'll just have to get yourself out of this."
" I thought..."
" You shouldn't of shot him!"
" He was a Officer you idiot!"
Did you guess now disapointement same situation as above.
" I can't believe you would do a thing like that."
" He was an officer."
" I didn't know Mat, I didn't know."
" James...How can you miss a badge...I thought I could trust you...but."
" They'll be looking for you now. "
I watched my friend learn over his hand in his for head,,,
" I'm in hot water aren't I?"
There was an awkward silence, I hadn't felt this nervous since my first time on the 'job.'
" Yes James and I am afraid to inform you that I am at a loss." My friend paused
" This time I can not help you..."
They was another silence
" You shot an officer James and that is none of my buiness. " He pauses again.
" It is the law's.,"
I was left standing alone and I sank down
" What have I done!?"
See how a different view point changes the who story, that is how we make dialogue seam more emotional
I hope you find this useful.
Posted: 4/7/2010 8:57 PM PDT
Edit: Cormack McCarthy
Posted: 4/7/2010 8:57 PM PDT
I seem to recall Cormick McArthy's "The Road" using a similar convention. There's no actual dialgoue, just narration of general ideas communicated.
"The man told the boy to eat the fried rat. The boy ate it. The boy thanked the Man. It was really depressing."
Posted: 4/7/2010 8:32 AM PDT
Have you ever read Jose Saramego? I don't think he writes any actual dialogue at all, but his stories and characters still work. Pick up "Blindness" and see what you think.
Note - don't expect to be able to write like Saramago, but seeing how he gets around it might give you some ideas, or at least clarify what you want out of the dialogue.
Posted: 4/7/2010 5:00 AM PDT
There is a lot of fun in bad stilted dialogue... especially if it's the first person and the narrator is a little sharp or nasty.
E.g - a rough draft of a scene I have just written, Eve is going to Morgans and it's been raining...
I’m let through the gate, which is a good thing because I’ve forgot my stepladder. Morgan waits for me at his doorstep in a tux. He looks smart, not quite James Bond but very award ceremony. I would be looking lovely, resplendent in Tinkerbell green, if the rain hadn’t soaked me through on the mile or so from the station and turned me into a soggy leaf.
“Hello.” Morgan says, he nearly bows.
“Hi.” We stand at his doorstep, him just under the cover, me under the rim of the cover where the rain gathers before falling in large drops on my head.
“How are you?” He smiles awkwardly, I think that’s a smile anyway.
“Wet. Get out the way and let me in.” I push past him and into the old fashioned hallway, the water dripping off me echoes as it lands on his parquet floor. Morgan shuts the door. It’s just the two of us.
“Hello,” he sats.
“How are you?”
“We just had this conversation and I’m still wet.”
“You look nice.”
“I look wet.” Maybe at some point he’ll offer to get me a towel.
“Are you hungry yet, or would you like to come into the drawing room.”
“I’d like to dry off first.”
“I suppose you would.” He stands awkwardly thinking. I’m surprised he hasn’t got the hint. However, I think he may now be understanding that a hint is in play. Time to put him out of his misery.
“I don’t suppose I could borrow a towel could I?” Illumination dawns on his puzzled features.
“Of course. I’ll just go get one. Please, I’ll be a moment, just wait for me in the drawing room.” He pushes open the first door on the left and bustles upstairs, taking them two at a time.
Posted: 4/6/2010 10:16 AM PDT
I find improvising "in character" helps. I also try and pay attention to people with distinct syntax and grammar. Assimilate your friends!
Or you could just write a novel about the last person on earth and avoid almost any dialogue whatsoever.
Posted: 3/4/2010 12:46 AM PST
Practice, pratice, pratice and read works by some of the greater novelists.
If I'm stuck, I close my eyes and try to feel my characters. You'll know what should be written on the page in a second, if you can move yourself into their lives and thoughts.
Posted: 2/25/2010 1:27 PM PST
I know this can be extremely annoying. I had constant problems with this and always thought the same about why I had to have it anyway. Then I realised that when I’m reading I love to get to the conversation so that the pace of the book can move along. Sometimes reading paragraph after paragraph can be very annoying so I bought myself a good vocabulary book and now feel that the conversation comes easier as long as I get rid of the fluff. Long pointless parts that you have to get across but seem too much I sum up through thought.
Posted: 2/20/2010 7:18 AM PST
Dialogue needs to move a story along or enhance a character … or break up the potential monotony of the narrative …
To read natural it has to be written naturally. Listen in on the conversations of others. Speak aloud the dialogue you wish to write making sure it sounds natural, normal.
There is a project on here that is Pure Dialogue … it tells the story without exposition. Good practice for writing dialogue.
Posted: 2/20/2010 3:29 AM PST
"How are you?"
"Fine. Do we really have to go through with this?"
Fluffy was momentarily taken aback. That response wasn't what he had expected. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"I mean I already know, in general, where the conversation is going to go, so that makes it seem redundant".
"I had no idea that you felt that way. The truth is, I'm not the world's greatest conversationalist. 'hi' and 'fine' are about the best I can manage. But I notice you aren't exactly contributing a lot to the conversation yourself, miss 'hi how are you'".
"That's typical. At least I answer your questions. You never answered mine, so I'll ask it again: Do we really have to go through with this?"
"Well, one of the things I like about you is that you're so much like me. Face it, we're both rotten conversationalists. But that doesn't seem to matter when we're dancing together as the sun rises over the rolling hills. In fact, nothing seems to matter then, except that you're with me and I'm with you. No conversation is necessary. Words would just distract from the beauty of the scene. We each know what the other is thinking anyway,"
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking now?"
"I think so".
"That's great, but I've got to go now."
"OK, see you later."
"Give me a call."
Posted: 2/19/2010 5:23 PM PST
I can, more or less, write "fluffy" prose all day. He did this, they danced together as the sun rose over the rolling hills, etc. But then I get to a part where two or more characters are supposed to be talking and it degrades into "Hi" "Hi" "How are you?" "Fine. You?" kind of things.
This annoys me to no end! I read what other people write and their dialog seems so effortless. I think part of the problem is I already know, in general, where the conversation is going to go; so it makes writing dialog seem "redundant" and more difficult.
Does anyone else have this problem? And, if so, what do you do to make your dialog sound less stilted?