Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 6 months ago

Can any give me advice on writing dialogue? ?

Dialogue is something I'm not good at because I don't tend to use it/need it much in the stories I normally write, but when I do it's always boring and just doesn't feel right, feels more like reading a script. So I decided to focus on writing dialogue to try and improve so wrote a scene between a therapist and a patient and now I'm editing it to address the problems.

Two questions: How do I keep the dialogue interesting. I've tried to create conflict.

Secondly, it's over 1,000 words of just dialogue alone. So how do I cut it down? What should be kept? Do I keep what moves the plot along and gives us a sense of character and important info on that character's life and past and just cut most of everything else?

Still learning so some help would be good. Thank you for your time.

2 Answers

  • 6 months ago
    Favourite answer

    Dialog is inherently more interesting than descriptive prose, as long as the dialog is pertinent to the story. It's a good way to flesh out personal descriptions: Cop: "What did the perp look like?" "Well, he was of medium height and build, had black hair, and wore a pin stripe suit. He had a scar on his right cheek and wore white gloves."   This short conversation sets up the reader for more development, and is an actual interaction between three people - the two characters and the reader.

    We might say, "While being interrogated the suspect broke down and confessed."

    Or we might say.: Cop: "We know you did it. We have your fingerprints on the weapon."

    "How could you? I only touched it briefly."

    This tells us that the suspect is guilty, that he has fallen for a trap, and that he is too stupid to know this. That's more interesting, isn't it?

    It will take practice to write good dialog. It won't hurt to read a lot of plays, which are very heavy on dialog. Just keep it pertinent.

  • 6 months ago

    Good dialogue contributes to the whole, either illuminating character or advancing the plot, same as good prose. When you have line after line of dialogue that doesn't do either, that needs cutting or condensing.

    As an example, consider a character going to the doctor. You could fill pages with her giving her name, address, insurance information, medical history, family medical history, the obtaining of height, weight, temperature, and blood pressure, but that dialogue would be boring an is unlikely to tell the reader much about the character or advance the plot unless that's the point of the dialogue--some unexpected revelation uncovered during the mundane. But if no revelation exists, you'd be advised to kill all that dialogue and either summarize in a sentence or two or skip it altogether, knowing your reader will presume it happened.

    There are lots of ways dialogue can fail to engage the reader. It serves no purpose. It tells the reader what they already know. The characters tell each other what they both know (as a way to tell the reader). It sounds stiff, unnatural, phony, forced, fake, and more. It's grammatically perfect, with complex sentence structure. There's no action, just talking heads. The reader loses track of who's speaking. They use direct address needlessly. They don't use slang or enough contractions.

    So if you're writing:

    "Adelle, would you please shut up so I can hear the TV?" Martin asked.

    "No, Martin. What I'm telling Mom is more important than your show."

    There's nothing wrong with it technically, but it feels false. Better might be:

    "Shut up. I can't hear the TV." Martin had the volume so high Mom's figurines vibrated on the corner shelf.

    "*You* shut up. This is more important."

    Often bad dialogue doesn't come very close to mimicking real speech. With their permission, record people talking to each other about nothing in particular, like conversation over a meal. Transcribe it, word for word. You'll find lots of verbal shortcuts, understood sentences, interruptions, self-interruption, people trailing off, and other aspects that may be absent from your dialogue. That's the way to write dialogue, so long as it ends up readable.

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