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  1. Timshel
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    Timshel New Member

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    Help with Dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Timshel, Sep 30, 2010.

    My worst, absolute worst obstacle when writing is dialogue. I know my characters and I know my story. I know exactly what I need to ge accross to the audience... but my dialogue comes out cheesy and unrealistic. I try to observe real life conversations and emmulate them... but real life conversations just aren't working on paper for me...

    Any strategies you guys use for dialogue? Anything would help really.
    Thanks!
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I just write the way I hear people talk. That's probably unhelpful, though.

    If you want, you can send me the document and I can give suggestions/examples on how to make the dialogue work better -- not do the whole thing for you, but help you out in some parts to get you going -- PM me if interested.
     
  3. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    I basically have a conversation with myself, although that might not work for you if you're not as mad as me.

    For example, if there's a question, I'll answer how I would expect to answer it, bearing in mind all the traits of my character. That way I can keep dialogue quite natural and not scripted.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't really aim for realism - too realistic dialogue in a story would be boring.

    I talk to my characters and I let them talk to each other. I have a blog that I keep with my main character and try to post his observations or a conversation between us. However in order to keep the story moving forward the dialogue also needs to serve a purpose.

    I work it in as part of the story. I also don't expect it to be great in the first draft takes time to get to know them well enough to know the story and what they need to say.
     
  5. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One great way to learn dialogue is Impro theater or roleplaying.

    Why?
    You get the luxury of running just one side of the dialogue, and can get a feel of the flow of interaction, action and reaction that make up dialogue. That dialogue is an instant flowing thing that you want to capture, but that fictional dialogue should do more then just real life conversations do. Real life conversation strives away from building tension and emotions most times, but in fictional dialogue you want to do the opposite thing.

    Do you have the chance to try improv theater or roleplaying irl do that, otherwise you could look at any online roleplaying forum or even MMORPG and study and try writing or acting dialogue this way.

    I would also recompensed Keith Johnstones book "Impro" (available at most library's) because it got a lot of lovely examples, practical advice and theory about how dialogue works. Every thing from status, to stalling/accepting and body language is handled in a funny interesting manner in that book.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Read dialogue in good novels. Note how little of it is "small talk", compared to real life chatter. When a good writer includes "small talk" dialogue, there is always more going on in the conversation.

    Dialogue is not just proof that the characters can open their mouths and produce sounds. Dialogue exposes character. If the dialogue does not expose character, you may as well paraphrase the conversation (indirect dialogue). You, the writer, should be able to cover the conversation more succinctly than your characters.

    When you do write dialogue, base it on listening to conversation. Note how real people often talk around the actual topic in their minds, changing the subject or dodging the more uncomfortable points. Often each person is speaking their own topic. Pay attention to the emotive content - humor, pleading, controlled or overt hostility.

    Good dialogue is an art form within the art of writing. Not every author has a good handle on it, but it is powerful in skilled hands.
     
  7. Timshel
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    Timshel New Member

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    Thanks for all your responses!!
    I think I will check out that book "Improv" because I definitely see the merit in that. I think I'm also going to attend a screenwriting seminar in my area soon. Maybe that'll help me get something going.

    I think dialogue is one of the most important parts of the novel because it really gets your character across. It's just something I'm going to have to work on.

    =] Again, thanks!
     
  8. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    WHOOPS. The books name is "Impro"
     
  9. Blips
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    Blips Member

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    What your thoughts are on using dialog to further the story, introduce new characters, while also using the valuable time to flesh out characters more?

    I've got some instance where dialog continues for two or three pages, but each instance is used (at least as far as I can tell) to achieve something. They're not just winded exchanges of banter.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I am not in favor of using dialogue solely for exposition, although in small doses it can be okay. But if it also provides a way to show one or more characters' attitudes toward the information, it is serving its primary purpose - exposing character.

    Consider The Shadow of the Past from The Fellowship of the Ring. That chapter is a fairly lengthy exposition through dialogue, but it works because it also reveals a great deal about Frodo and Gandalf, and even Sam Gamgee.

    Our own Terry Ervin wrote a story, Vegetable Matters. Much of the story is told through dialogue, but dialogue also gives the reason to suspend the story at key points (using interruptions for real time activities, and the telling character's own reasons to not tell everything immediately), as well as giving the reader insight into the two main characters. It's worth reading if you can find it - it's not on this site, though.
     
  11. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're having trouble with dialogue, try writing a script just as an exercise. You'll learn so much in only a page or so when you try and tell a story entirely with dialogue - and scripts are exactly the place you want to do it. Try to get across a lot of info from one character to the other, but you can never have just one character going at it for more than 3 or 4 lines - the other has to interact and be affected by what they hear.
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My first novel, which was very long, was criticized by an agent who had read a couple of chapters (before telling me it wasn't for her) because there was too much dialogue and it ran on for too long at a time. I had made the mistake of trying to make it like regular conversation, and as was mentioned above, that is too long and too boring. I tend to treat dialogue as something of a digest of what actual conversation would sound like.
     

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