Say What Now?

25 Jan

Dialogue is something a lot of writers fear. The thought of it makes them crawl up the wall or hide in a closet with a mop as a weapon of choice. Why? Because a lot of writers find it difficult and dialogue is a very important part of a story.
I myself don’t have any trouble with it. In fact, I think it’s the one aspect that comes most naturally to me. So, in order to give advice I’ve been questioning my brain as to what would help someone write better dialogues in case that is a weak point of theirs.

The main thing I’ve come up with is this: KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. I have never filled in a list with all the facts of my character. I don’t need to know what their favourite kind of shoes are or what vegetable they hate. I kind of feel what I need to know, if that makes sense. I catch their vibe like the string of a balloon and let it take me to where it wants to go. Perhaps this is why I’m a good wing-it writer. It could be that this doesn’t work for plotting writers, but either way the point is that you get to know your characters so well that when you write them, you become them. Then it’s just a matter of responding. So if you’re a plotter, fill in that sheet if you want! Fill in as much as you want up until the point that you feel you’re in the character’s head.

Once you’re in your character’s head you put it to the test. Start with a random scene where your character responds to a situation. Then write a scene where your character responds to words from a friend, stranger, or enemy. But my favourite one is the SHRINK SESSION. This can also be done before you get a feel for your character or when you find it difficult to get into your character’s head. YOU are the shrink and your character sits opposite to you. Start by taking note of body language and then start asking him or her questions. Start at the beginning or ask about what’s going on recently in his or her life. Put them in the hot seat or handle them with care…or both! And see what happens. This is a fun and creative way to get the ball of words rolling. Try it and let me know if it helps.

Then it’s just a matter of writing and getting to know your characters through your story. Because even then your characters will still surprise you. Sometimes you think you know someone…Damn those characters. It’s like they’re real people sometimes. 😉


6 Responses to “Say What Now?”

  1. Jen Connelly January 26, 2015 at 3:28 am #

    I used to hate writing dialogue when I was younger. I think the thing that actually helped me was writing fanfic. If you want to write it well (which I do), you have to know the character’s voice, and it is very specific to whatever fandom you are in. I write mostly for TV shows, so it’s a great way to learn voice and dialogue, especially if you can binge watch a show. The longer you watch, listening to how the actors speak, what the characters say, and how they say it, the easier it is to write those characters.
    With all that practice, I’ve found writing dialogue for my own characters pretty easy. Your point about knowing your characters is the same as my fanfic example. If you really know them, can hear them in your head, then writing down what they say is easy.

  2. Daevone January 26, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    Oh, this is perfectly well-timed with the story I’m revising. Great post. 🙂

  3. kquintana January 26, 2015 at 3:40 pm #

    I love dialogue. When I was younger, I would grab a pen and notepad and sit in the living room or kitchen and write everything that my sisters said. Or I’d sit at the back of the class and just write someone else’s conversation word for word. I think after years of doing that, I started to notice the subtle details that work in ‘natural’ dialogue. I wish there was a way to do that with description too!

    • pfeatherstonehaugh January 26, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

      How awesome that you did that!
      And there is a way for description as well. At least, what I do is I keep a notebook in which I quote descriptions from other authors and I use it to practise. So I try something similar to them in a different setting or when describing a different person. And it also helps to do what you did by writing down what other people in your environment said. Just describe a building, or a person and keep doing that until you notice it becomes easy! At least, it has helped other writers I know. Good luck, though. Description is tough.

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