1. PlzBeQuiet
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    PlzBeQuiet New Member

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    How to write dialogues?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by PlzBeQuiet, Nov 20, 2012.

    This may sound like a ridiculous question, but the truth is, I've never even read a book, maybe except for when I was 5 years old or something.
    So, like the title says: How to write dialogues between two characters? I've read a few sections from books and fanfics to see what dialogues look like, and I learned that they look something like this:

    "Blah blah blah", she says.
    "Blah blah blah", he says.
    "Blah blah blah", she says, letting out a sigh.
    "Blah blah blah", he replies, scratching his head.
    "Blah blah blah", she answers, patting his shoulder.
    Gasping, he says "Blah blah blah".
    "Blah blah blah", she yells, followed by a giggle.

    And so on and so forth. Is this how dialogues are written? It just seems kinda silly to me, y'know? He says, she says, he sighs, she yells, he this, she that... To me, it would look fine on the first one or two pages, but when you have like 500 pages of "he says she says he this she that", it seems like there's something I'm missing. Or maybe it's just me?
    The story I wanna write; I have it in my head as a movie or something, but I have no idea how to turn its dialogues into letters and words without either making it sound silly or lacking on details...

    Help will be appreciated. Thanks...
     
  2. svartalfheim
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    svartalfheim Member

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    First thing that's going to help you, Read. If your not prepared to read how do you expect to be good at writing?

    I have never read a book that's been 500 pages of pure conversation, and if they were, it would be pretty much one character talking with another one expressing input now and again. If it sounds like its lacking detail, it probably is. said & says are words that I don't see often, except in amateur books, and even then that's when they don't know how to make it sound better.

    I will have to return to my first comment, which i think is the absolute most important. How do you even expect to be a good writer if you wont read. Main advice, read, read, read, read, read and read. If you don't like reading, you wont like writing.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If you have really never read a book, then your writing is going to suffer in many more ways than just proper dialogue.

    Get thee to a library!
     
  4. PlzBeQuiet
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    PlzBeQuiet New Member

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    In that case, you guys got any recommendations for a good book to read and learn from? If it matters, the book I wanna write is realistic (Talks about today's society, etc) with some fantasy (Gods showing themselves to the world and things like that). I wanna write it in 3rd person, as if there's a narrator who tells all the events.

    Any suggestions?
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A good book?? You want one??

    I'm afraid it's a tad more complicated than that. Let's see...

    The Bible (both Old and New Testaments)
    The Quran
    Paradise Lost - John Milton
    Don Quixote - Cervantes
    Moby Dick - Herman Melville

    Anything by the following authors:
    - Charles Dickens
    - William Shakespeare
    - C.P. Snow
    - Leo Tolstoy
    - Henrik Ibsen
    - Anton Chekhov
    - Mark Twain
    - Ernest Hemingway

    That's just off the top of my head.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are millions of books available. Find the genre you like first, and browse. Talk to friends about books they like. But don't expect to read a couple of books similar to the one you want to write and that's that - you can write. Consider this just the first baby steps. Under the circumstances, I wouldn't expect you to have a novel of publishable quality ready for a couple of years at least, unless you're some kind of prodigy.
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess my first question might be to ask how old you are, because I don't understand how, if you are old enough to type your thoughts onto a computer, you have never read a book since kindergarten. At the very least, you should have read books in school. If you've been homeschooled, and because of that you have never read a book, then I am very disturbed by that.

    I don't really know what you're asking us -- it seems to me your question is easily answered by opening a few books, which you can easily obtain by getting yourself to the nearest bookstore or library. There are also plenty of books on writing that discuss writing dialogue.
     
  8. svartalfheim
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    svartalfheim Member

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    Ok so after discussing this with a friend of mine, it became apparent that you may come from a family/situation where reading isn't something that is thought of as a solution, so now that you have been told, the world of writing is a small step closer.

    In terms of reading, if you haven't read something since you were five, I'm going to presume your going to lose interest quickly? Chose a book that you know will grab you something you like, the hunger games is a good one to start, simple but a good book, the Skulduggery series is one of my favorites so naturally I would recommend that, they are teen books, but they're good. I mean if you want to read the hobbit be my guest but I don't think it will grab you the same way it grabs me, me being a more fantasy reader.

    So find something that grabs you. Don't just work off the covers, That's how you find yourself buying some bad books, experience.
     
  9. Michael Collins
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    Michael Collins Contributing Member

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    You could try American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.
     
  10. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    That's how dialogue works, one person says something...the other answers. Something is said... someone reacts. We cant see what your thinking inside your head so you have to explain it to us on the page. If you see Johnny talking to Barry (awesome names i know) tell us that Johnny said "Nice coat" and that barry scoffed at the remark saying, "Cheap knock off my mum got from the market."
    Yeah there's a lot of said this said that but from reading the other posts here, I saw that the main consensus is that we are blind to the word said.
    What you saw as ridiculous may be because you saw some poor dialogue.

    Best book that helped me were 'How not to write a novel'
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how-to books won't do you any good, since you don't read the kinds of books you want to write...

    i also have to wonder how you can say you've never read a book since you were 5... so i ditto the questions about how old you are and didn't you go to school?
     
  12. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    I actually have a friend who have never opened a book, and he is 24. It does happen.

    Ontopic: Read! The only way to get better a dialogue is to read a lot of books, because then you will see how different authors mix dialogue with narrative in a way that is meaningful to the story. I'm sure there are books specifically on writing dialog, but I find that reading books generally is the best approach.
     
  13. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Ok, time for a little dialogue 101 here-and I'm not trying to be condescending so please don't take it as so.
    "He said" "She said" are what's called dialogue 'tags' and they need be used every time a character speaks. Dialogue can be like this:

    "What's that, Andrew?" Kate said.
    "I hate you."
    "Oh, really? I'm not losing sleep over it."

    Once the order is established you can have the dialogue move without tags some. The tags just slow the pace down a bit to allow the reader to catch their breath.

    "Ok." Kate said. "Here's the plan?"
    "I'm listening." Jennifer said.
    "We're going to head East another mile and then head South for a couple before stopping."
    "Bad Idea."
    "Why?"
    "Because if they want to catch us, all the soldiers got to do is move Northeast and they can intercept."
    "It's our best move to survive."
    "You might think that." Jennifer said. "But here's an alternative..."

    The order was established at the very beginning which allowed for the 'rapid fire' nature of the dialogue to flow, until I put the tag "Jennifer said" in there to bring a pause, similar to the word "BEAT" in play writing when you want the actress to stop for a second. However, in this case it's when talking.

    As for "Blah blah blah" She giggled. That comes across as she spoke first then giggled, which is useful in some ways, but doesn't always describe what you want either at times. Not every 'he said' needs to be followed by a description. Sometimes it's necessary, other times the words used can convey the emotion.

    In this section Brittany Chambers and my MC Kate are having an argument. Tags weren't necessary to cover Kate's responses. But the action described be Chambers before speaking came into play because it happens before she speaks. If I put the same action in the center of the comment, then it would end up being perceived as Chambers speaking first, then the action, and her finishing comments when she did it before speaking. This is something that can be done too. (NOTE: this is raw unedited scene for the nitpickers)

    Chambers turned back to face Kate, and fired burned in her eyes. “You always, always, always leap before looking, and count on your viciousness and skills to survive!”
    “I do not! It’s just doing what needs to be done!”
    “That’s right, sister! Keep on telling yourself you don’t do it! God, how you’re stubborn!”
    “Look who’s talkin’! I’m not the one making a scene!”

    Looks like I'll write a blog on dialogue tonight.
     
  14. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Dialogue should flow naturally, using as few tags and beats as possible. Just enough for the reader to not be confused about who is talking. Adding more tags and beats will slow down the pace, but that can occasionally be used for effect.

    But, seriously, you need to read a book. To be a writer is to be a reader. It doesn't even matter what you read so much as long as you read. To quote Ed, "GET THEE TO A LIBRARY!"

    And as soon as Cogito logs on today, he's going to recommend you read his blogs about dialogue. Do so, they are excellent.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Dialogue is practically an art form in itself. You won't be able to learn the art by reading a few posts. As for how-to books, I am on the same page as Maia: they're a waste of money and time. Before you can sort out the nuggets of good advice from the mountains of manure and opinion, you have to know enough about dialogue that the book is totally unnecessary.

    The best books for learning good dialogue are novels containing good dialogue.
     
  16. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I'd be surprised if the OP returns to soak up all the good advice offered above.
     
  17. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    The OP never read a book?
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    did he never go to school?
     
  19. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Alot of my school age friends will read cliffnote summaries online instead of actually reading the book. One kid I know graduated high school without knowing how to read beyond a third grade level... It was sad.
     
  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As the old country-western standard goes, "Everybody wants to go to Heaven, nobody wants to die."
     
  21. the antithesis
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    the antithesis Member

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    What details would be lacking?
     
  22. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    I think Cogito has done one. Don't quote me on that.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My blog is primarily about the mechanical aspects of dialogue: punctuation and layout. I've been thinking about writing another one about dialogue from a purpose and planning perspective, but haven't done so yet.
     
  24. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    Well said!
     
  25. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I agree with all that. However, unless you have some idea of good dialogue, how do you recognise it? The problem is that so many people today come to writing (and reading) too late. The foundation of good writing is learned over time - from the moment that the written word starts to make sense, from the construction of the first juvenile sentence, it is an ongoing learning curve. Good practices need to be encouraged from an early age.
     

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