1. Anomally
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    Anomally Member

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    Creating Realistic Dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Anomally, May 21, 2008.

    I was reading about how to create natural sounding conversations in novels the other day, when I came across and interesting idea. Turn what the characters say into a bare bones script, then try to read it aloud, like you would in a play. I tried it, and it seems to work pretty well. When you're speaking, you'll tend to fill words in yourself, and take some of the stiffness out of how the characters speak.

    I was just wondering if anyone has some other methods for creating realistic dialogue?

    Thanks,
    Anomally
     
  2. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I speak dialogue aloud too. It can help you notice something that just doesn't sound right (Course maybe you dont want it to sound right)
     
  3. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    The thing with fiction is that 'realistic' dialogue is a bit of a misnomer. Fiction isn't really meant to be realistic, if it was, it would be really boring. Most people want to escape from reality when they read fiction, not have it emulate stuff they already know.

    Try listening to some people talk, and you'll hear them saying things like: 'So, erm, I was at the erm, ooh, what do you call it? erm, the, stadium, yup the stadium, and this guy comes up to me. And he looked a bit like that guy in that TV series, erm... you know the one. Yes you do! Or was it a cartoon? And he did the voice? Anyway, the one where that girl has the green thingy...'

    That's realistic speech, and if you put that in your book as dialogue, it would be awful. In a novel, the dialogue serves the puropse of revealing the story as well as animating the characters, so it has to be condensed into what perhaps might be considered 'believable' rather than 'realistic' dialogue. Speaking it out loud is of course one way to find out if it has a nice flow though, and it does have the advantage of pointing out where you need to pause and take breaths, so that is a help when it comes to punctuation.

    One method that gets recommended from time to time is to listen out for conversations and note down any interesting or useful phrases you actually do hear, which will be few and far between given the above example. You might find any useful ones you note down handy at some point in your writing.

    Al
     
  4. LolliAdverbs
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    LolliAdverbs New Member

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    I agree with Al B.

    Read Oscar Wilde. Does that dialogue seem in anyway realistic to you? Unlikely. Is it still good? It's beyond good. It's excellent.

    Personally, I think the best way to write dialogue is just simply know and understand your characters. It'll come after that.

    Anyway, reality gets in the way of a good story, I think.
     
  5. starrynight89
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    starrynight89 Senior Member

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    I think it all comes down to knowing your characters like the back of your hand. You should be aware of what they like, what they don't like, their personalities and have conversations with them. Talk about what makes them angry and why, who they admire, and even what music they listen to. . . and the list is endless. What helps me write dialogue, which I do struggle with, is treat the character like your best friend and really listen to them. . . It's a little strange but it helps me write what my character wants to say.

    I don't really know if that helped but. . . I tried . :)
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also listen to other people. A lot. Pay attention to how one person's phrasing, tone, pace differs from another's. Like any part of character development, peoplewatching is invaluable.
     
  7. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I hear the dialogue running through my head as I write it--the characters themselves talking--though I assume not everybody does this. Basically it's the equivalent of carrying on mental conversations as if there's more than one of you up in there.

    Perhaps trying out a tape recorder and talking into it, then filtering the speech that works (i. e., omitting the "uh"s and "um"s), can help with dialogue. The same thing as the technique I mentioned, only out loud. (I'd make sure nobody is around at the time though.)

    Or, if you know anybody adventurous enough, carry on a tape-recorded conversation with someone else!
     
  8. LionofPerth
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    LionofPerth Senior Member

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    Dialogue, my old Englih teacher loved what I wrote for a story because, to quote him 'they seemed alive, you heard the voices in your own head'

    Well, trumpet blowing over, dialogue is a hard thing to get right. It's very important as it builds up the characters, what they do while they speach, if they accent certain words, and why they accent words. I tend to hear the discussion mentally, like the characters are alive in some part of mind, and I write that down.

    Now, another thing I remember, realistic dialogue is not good dialouge. The best dialogue is so articial it gives saccrine a run for it's money, but it reads well. It gives you this picture, of a person, and exactly what they mean. Realistic dialogue can often be confusing, inaccurate, and draw out, something you don't want in a story at all.

    The way I judge a bit of dialogue I'm not sure on is if I can hear the characters voice saying it, and if I can't, I change it.

    As for methods, practise, see what works for you, and if you still have trouble, I'm sure other members could direct you to exercises or something of that type to help. Though, to be honest I see it as a part of the character itself, and their background. They need those little foibles that set them apart from the rest of the ensemble of characters, something which defines them as being unqiue, not just another John Smith, if not in name, in actions.
     

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