1. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do you write dialogue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by w176, Mar 26, 2011.

    How do you write dialogue?




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    Personally I write dialogue in two stages.

    First as a pure flow of lines, no actions, no "He/she/X said" Just what being said. I know whats going on and try to capture the response that comes naturally for me as fast as possible. Then I add all the non verbal stuff, actions, thoughts, inflections, tone, who said what and so on.

    I think prefer it to do it this way because I done a lot of impro theater and roleplaying. Dialogue comes naturally and instinctual, and the critical thing for me is to get that flow into writing without being bogged down in details as fast as possible.
     
  2. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I tend to write somewhat linearly, skipping back and forth a little bit, but only going back to previous chunks when I really need to.

    Thing is, I'd forget who's talking. Also, I'm connecting dialogue with thoughts and non-verbal cues, even figuring out where I need to put the beats.
     
  3. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I think that the times I've been most successful at dialogue have been when I was writing it like this. Your post was a useful reminder not to agonise over the details of dialogue when you're drafting it.
     
  4. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes I usually do as w176 does when I really get a good piece of dialogue going, the saids must wait for editing.
     
  5. bumblebot
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    bumblebot Senior Member

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    I've never written like this, but I tried it for an assignment where I was supposed to write a short styory that was mostly dialogue, like Hills Like White Elephants by Hemingway.

    It worked out great, I don't think I would have thought to try it myself. Definitely making it a habit.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I couldn't write it like that - I need to body language to bring it to life I guess. I write mine like this.

    With a fire beneath him the pot is bubbling away, he looks with envy at the kettle next to him, 'My goodness my dear Steamy, you are looking good today.'

    A deep throated whistle emanates from the kettle, 'Well than you my dear Panhandle. How nice of you to say. Mistress Cooper gave me a new coat of black yesterday.'

    'Wish she would work on me,' says Pandhandle bubbling so hard some of his contents spill over the top.
     
  7. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I'm aware of the body language, but in that subconscious way you are will acting or improvising. I know that it there, I know how I would have done if I acted it, so I don't have to write it during the first phase. Just add the missing information during the second phase.
     
  8. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write in all the little character quirks, outbursts and sidetracks in the dialogue from the start. That way, it meanders to the point where I want it to go instead of following a planned path. I'm hoping it feels more natural that way.

    As a consequence, I don't know when the dialogue will arrive at the point where it needs to be. If the characters are uncooperative, it can take them all day getting there, and then I have to go back to the beginning and try to branch the dialogue in a different direction.

    I visualise the characters and try to include the body language which feels important. In practice, most of the tags are about which way the characters are looking: Are they looking down, staring straight at the other person, letting their eyes wander, etc. I guess it tells the reader where the character's attention is, which in turn gives them a hint about what they're thinking of.
     
  9. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Not sure if this explains it but..I write dialogue as I intend it to be read. Sort of what I think I want as the end state. So it does include the dialogue transitions and actions in between. I can't not write it that way, I guess. Granted, even though I write it that way, it doesn't mean that I don't edit (heavily, for that matter) later on. I guess I need the sense of scene or it doesn't flow naturally for me.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Before I write dialogue, I think about what I really want to convey with it. Dialogue isn't a substitute for narrative, or a way to break it up. Dialogue serves to reveal character.

    What is literally spoken is the text of the dialogue, but the larger part of dialogue is often the subtext - what is implied or hinted at. Think about conversations between a man and a woman, where she is afraid the relationship is going nowhere and he is terrified of committing. They will talk about everything BUT the relationship. Her talk will drop hints about their future, he will manage not to notice the hints and his talk will keep steering the conversation back to the present. So if they are in a car, she'll point out a house and comment how she'd love to have a house like that someday. He notes they've been driving for a while and they should look for someplace to stop for lunch, and so on.

    Only then do I give thought to how they phrase their conversation.

    I do a lot of peoplewatching, and listening. I listen for speech patterns and remember them. Not accents as much as word choice and the order in which sentences are laid out.
     
  11. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't have a specific "way." My characters talk and I transcribe as best I can. Whatever way I find best for the given moment, THAT is how I write it.
     
  12. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    This is like asking me how I write: I just do it, and trying to clarify how would be a fool's endeavor. Normally, I'd say the only difference between dialogue and narrative is that in dialogue, the characters get to imbue their personalities into the text. But I write in first person, so that happens in the narrative as well. It almost renders the entire story as one long bit of internal monologue. So in my case, the only difference is that dialogue also allows other characters that opportunity.

    I couldn't come up with a better answer than that if you paid me.
     
  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Usually when writing it into the text document I write it as it should be right away. The only way I do this way W176 suggested is when ut of nowhere (usually when Im about to sleep) I get this inspiration for a conversation I just grab a pen and write it like this in my notebook, in order to capture it before it goes away. Then, usually when writing it into the MS I add what needs to be added for it to be complete and improve it if necessary.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me what is said is a fairly minor part of the dialogue with my first person present tense work it forms a huge part of the work - but it is the interaction between the people what does he do with his hands, what is his facial expression - is he walking, how is he standing etc that brings the dialogue to life,

    I actually give very little thought to the content of the dialogue and find it comes out with a more natural flow that way. I write it as though they are conversing right there in front of me.
     
  15. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^

    Complete opposite for me. I let the words do the talking.

    Interesting thread.
     

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