1. Pludovick
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    Pludovick Member

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    Help with writing dialogue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Pludovick, Sep 12, 2012.

    I realise that this is a painfully open-ended topic, which may well limit the amount of feedback I get, but I'm not quite sure how to make it more specific. Essentially, I'd like to start writing a novel, but I don't feel I can as all the dialogue I write comes across as horrendously stilted and completely unnatural sounding. What sort of things should you do do convey dialogue well when writing- should you try to keep it as near to regular speech as possible, or are there any ways it should be changed to account for the novel form? Sorry again for the vague topic but it's something that's really been bugging me that I'd like to work on.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dialogue should be as natural sounding as possible while not being a 'transcription'. I believe there are instances where the style of the narrative/genre 'allows' for more stilted dialogue, but not sure it's that popular any more.

    Read the dialogue out loud. When you come across a problem, try rephrasing it as if you were talking to the other character.
     
  3. TLBarnz
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    TLBarnz New Member

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    I've always found that the dialogue should sound like the character. Each character will have an individual way of speaking and carrying that through the entire work will be important. Once you established a character, ask yourself what would he/she say and more importantly why would they speak that way. Make it as natural as possible. Hope that helps.
     
  4. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    Without seeing your actual writing, it's difficult to make judgement on how to help. Guess I could tell you what works for me?

    Whenever I write a scene, I usually write the dialogue first. This method may not work for everyone. If that's not how you float your boat, then I suggest that you go back to your written scene and re-read only the dialogue. If the conversation is able to stand by itself and hold your interest, then you've got it made. If not, then you need to to train yourself to eavesdrop (for lack of a better word) to other peoples' conversations: Real people, Movie People, any people. Just listen, listen, listen. There's bound to be a golden nugget of a sound bite out there somewhere. But most importantly, when you do so, use your brain as a sieve. People say a lot of useless stuff and you have to train yourself to recognize it when you hear it. All that "useless stuff" doesn't need to go in your story. Embellish real-life conversations if you must!

    Give each character a distinct personality through their dialogue. I get seriously bored when everyone talks like everyone else, and I refuse to believe that everyone sounds the same.

    Anyway, sorry if I'm not much help. I'm sure someone will come along who will offer up better advice. Good luck!
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Study novels with great dialogue. Also, listen to real conversations as often as possible. Pay attention to what does NOT get written into novels with good dialogue.

    Good dialogue presents the illusion of natural speech, without containing all the detritus of real speech. Not only should get rind of the hemming and hawing, leave out anything which doesn't actually advance the plot, the characters and their relationships, or both.

    Even the small talk should convey more than the weather, sports scores, and current events. Reveal attitudes, and reveal tensions between characters.

    Be patient. Dialogue is virtually an art form in itself. Don't expect to master it in a day, or a month.
     
  6. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could someone recommend some novels with great dialogue?

    Are there any out of copyright novels with great dialogue that don't sound too dated? That can be found on Project Gutenberg? Or authors who died more than 70 years ago who wrote great dialogue?

    I googled around myself, and found a list of ten authors who write great dialogue.

    Edit: Hmmm.... The author of that article is from Houston, Texas, but uses single quotes for dialogue. I've read that officially single quotes for dialogue is UK style, and double quotes is US style. But it's not that simple in real life.
     
  7. tiffanylyn
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    tiffanylyn Member

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    Watch the use of slang. I personally don't mind slang, but a published author once advised me to begin with a character that does use slang by using, say "doin'", but later on change to "doing" since reading "doin'" over and over becomes annoying, and the reader gets the characters voice reading it the first time. This can also refer to new words (urban dictionary comes to mind) that may be popular for a very short season, then fall away, leaving your writing to be dated. I've broken this rule.

    I've read twice that cursing is best when used wisely, and not to over use it, even with foul-mouthed characters. This seems to be good advice.
     
  8. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't like using cursing. But in one of my stories I had a character shout: "F**K OFF ZOMBIES, I'M EATING CHIPS!" With the characters I had, the Zombie comedy genre, and the situation, I just couldn't come up with an alternative line without the F word that worked. Maybe I'll think of something and get rid of it next draft. Even using the P**S OFF alternative just didn't sound right to me.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if she were submitting a ms to agents or paying publishers, she'd be slapped down for it... the editors of this e-rag don't seem to give a fleep about one of the punctuation basics... or that may be their 'house style'... doesn't mean anyone should emulate her transgression...
     
  10. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    If this character uses "doin'", then wouldn't it be awkward/strange to change it to "doing" all of a sudden? If using that word becomes tiresome, I would suggest writing dialogue where that particular word is used sparingly. Switching spelling would make the character seem inconsistent and give cause for complaint.

    Just my two cents.
     
  11. tiffanylyn
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    tiffanylyn Member

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    Still Life,
    I agree with you that it would be weird to suddenly see the same word written differently and can't site any examples in print. This was just some advice I received from a teacher, but like any advice...
     
  12. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    British newspapers seem to be very inconsistent in their use of quotes. Even quality papers like The Times, The Guardian, and The Observer.
     
  13. Sulla
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    Sulla Member

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    Dialogue has always been a problem for me, too.

    I think part of the problem is that I am anti-social and rarely converse with other people.

    My characters generally sound the same. I'm working on it. At least I know it's a problem, I guess. I bought a Writer's Digest Dialogue book for a dollar (it's actual worth). It had a lot of rules, which was somewhat helpful but didn't actually explain HOW to write or create dialogue.

    I would also be interested in a good book on the subject, if one exists.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    UK English seems to be in transition with regard to quote marks for dialogue. Traditionally, they used single quotes as the outer level quote marks, but they seem to be moving toward the American standard, which is double quotes at the outer level, and has been for a long time.

    See He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     

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