1. stef
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    stef New Member

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    Problems adding speech

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by stef, Feb 20, 2010.

    Hi,

    I have been writing on and off for several years but I've always had a problem whenm it comes to adding dialogue. I find it difficult to add dialogue without slowing the flow of story, also find it hard to make it sound convincing with out being a long rant. I also find it difficult to express my characters through their speech, they all tend to 'sound' the same and I'm not sure how to change it without giving people over the top accents.
    Any help or advice would be great,
    Thanks!
     
  2. Neoaptt
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    Neoaptt Banned

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    This just means you are sane. You don't hear voices in your head that tell you what to write.

    You might be able to write plots. But if you aren't able to create diolog you might try studying people. Be able to start hearing voices.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    thing is, you shouldn't be 'adding' dialog... it should flow naturally from what's going on in the story with your characters... if you haven't made them real enough yet, that could be the problem... when they're real to you and are doing things that real people do, they'll begin to speak...

    don't do things without saying anything, do they?... they don't spend time with each other without speaking, so your characters can't, either... allow them to speak, and they will!
     
  4. stef
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    stef New Member

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    thanks for you advice,
    i do try to let the dialogue flow, but I always think it needs to have some umphf! rather than being just conversation. Perhaps I'm thinking too much, after all I'm not trying to write some shakesperian speech!
     
  5. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do. When I'm writing, that is. The dialogue flows, and new lines just appear without me thinking of them - the accent that they are presented in is quite often that of the character that they are intended for.

    You simply need to know your character better. Their voice, their mannerisms, and their tone will come to you, and you'll become familiar with it. If you know them well enough, then you can do it instinctively, and it will usually be good work.
     
  6. Tigress
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    Tigress Member

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    I sometimes struggle with dialog, too. As has been said, that's generally a sign the character isn't fleshed out enough in my mind.

    One trick I've found that's helped me immensely is to start journals for my flat characters. Sounds corny I know, but it works! I let the characters talk to themselves in their journals, allowing their personalities to emerge. Through those diary entries, they become three dimensional and begin to live and breath like real people.

    I've found this especially useful for the main heroine in the novel I'm writing. She's a difficult character to portray because she is incredibly reserved and loathes excessive displays of emotion. But, by allowing her to let her hair down in her journal, I've found it's much easier to bring her warmth and her wit to life in her dialogs.
     
  7. stef
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    stef New Member

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    hey thanks, i really like the idea of a journal.
    I think that i need to think about what langauge the character would use aswell, so that they don't become similar.
     
  8. cboatsman
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    cboatsman Senior Member

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    As people have pointed out this mostly stems from poor character development. That's not to say you didn't develop them properly, it's saying they haven't matured yet. Characters once mature are living and breathing just like you and I. They know what to say, you just have to let them speak.

    The journal idea is an excellent idea and something that might prove useful to you. Another good one is twenty questions. Sit your boring character down and interrogate him or her until you learn more about them.

    Caleb
     
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Personally, I find imagining characters as living, breating people to be complete and utter nonsense (I'd use a coarser word, but these forums are family friendly). Characters are just words, words that are entirely within your control. I contend that it isn't lack of character detail that is causing the problem, but a lack of understanding of what you want to achieve in a particular scene with regards to thematic concerns, style and aesthetics.

    I dunno, I read posts like the one above and can't help but laugh to myself. The characters aren't real, they have no responsibility for the story, and even if they do "speak", its just you anyway, so rather than resign control of it to things that don't exist, take up your authorial responsibility and think more carefully about what you are doing.

    On the other hand, if hallucinations prove helpful, go with that. And see a doctor.
     
  10. Neoaptt
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    Neoaptt Banned

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    Lissen to a commidian or a ventriliquist that talks in different voices. Then some audiobooks and radiodramas.

    I have some that i can recommend if you pm me.
     
  11. cboatsman
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    cboatsman Senior Member

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    aaron89 you are taking it too literally. Of course they are not walking around my house eating breakfast with me, but a good developed character does have a personality. My post is a figure of speech. I don't sit around at dinner and interrogate hallucinated characters. :)

    Caleb
     
  12. Neoaptt
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    Neoaptt Banned

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    No, you should do that sometimes. That might just come in handy.
     
  13. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you know those words well enough, you can tell what the rest of the sentence is. For example, if someone shouted 'who ya gonna call?'

    It's the same with characters. If you know them well enough, you instinctively know what they will do and say in any situation you put them in. It's not always brilliant, that's where you may need to change the words a bit. But the raw material that your knowledge of that person...or character, depending on whether or not you feel that they actually are real people, just not physical, as some authors do...provides you with should not be dismissed.
     
  14. Dee_xx
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    Dee_xx Member

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    You say you have a problem 'adding' dialoge. Shouldn't dialoge flow with what you're writing and not be 'added' or 'forced' into what you are writing?

    If I were you I'd take my laptop, or a pad and pen, to a local resturant. I'd study peoples behavours, watch their facial expressions, their tone of voice and gestures in different situations. Although, be sure to do this without making it ovbious so people don't think you're some kind of stalker.
     
  15. stef
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    stef New Member

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    I feel like I agree with you here. I think I know my charcaters really well, the difficulty I have is more to do with expressing that through style and language. I suppose I will only get my dialogue as I want through constant work on it, and will take other people's advice and try to study people around me.
    thanks everyone!
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    your characters' dialog must flow from their actions... you're obviously having them do this and that, so what would they be saying, while they're doing it?...

    put yourself in each character's mind and imagine what you'd say about what's going on, or about what you'd say about how you feel, what you want/fear/hope... and what you'd want to say to other characters in the scene...

    you don't go through life not speaking, so you can't have your characters do that, either... and don't have them say stuff just to be sticking in some dialog... what they say must relate to what they're doing and feeling, etc....
     
  17. Endricte
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    Endricte Member

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    When I start a story, my dialogue usually starts out pretty stiff. Maybe, even, what the characters are saying could be spoken by anyone in some instances. I have a few defining features, but I generally start with simple cadence, whether they use strong language or more sophisticated words, if they're serious or have a humorous demeanor, or if they are truthful in what they say or like to beat around the bush. After awhile, each character seems to develop in my mind, so that I've got a pretty good handle on how they would react to certain people and situations.

    Mostly, I get the best handle on my characters with idle chat. If it seems like filler later, I just erase it, or, since I've developed them more, I'll replace that old clunky dialogue with something in line with how I've established the character down the road.
     
  18. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    A couple of suggestions:

    Find areas of your story that tend to be exposition, or even just pinpoint some actions and figure out how the characters could convey this through dialog instead. For a simple example, say a character misses their older sibling which will eventually lead them back home only to discover xyz. Instead of writing straight out the character misses the sibling, or writing how they notice a photo stuck to the fridge with a magnet and it makes their heart skip in longing, change it around.

    "I really miss Jill." Jack placed the cereal box on the table and went to the cabinet. He shuffled around a giant can of instant lemonade and shook the box behind it. Almost out of cornflakes. "When we were kids, I thought I'd be glad to get rid of my annoying big sister and now I'm considering driving 16 hours just to see her. Hey, do you think fruitloops would go well with cornflakes?"

    Of course, you don't want to change every thought and action into dialog but if you break it up a bit, it should flow much better. Not only that, but it'll be useful to the storyline.

    Now if all your characters are sounding the same, you are either "hearing" them as yourself or as the same individual (ie, all your men are Bruce Willis in your head). The easiest way I found to help fix this, is to assign each of your characters to someone you know personally. Your MC is your uncle Bill. The MC's on-again, off-again is your cube mate at work. Not only will it lead to some very bizarre visuals that might require alcohol to overcome, but you should start developing some realistic dialogue.

    However, you want to use that as a jumping point or, with enough characters in enough stories, you are bound to start repeating. But once you've written enough dialogue based on people you know, go back and analyze why it works. It's a lot more than over the top accents, or catch phrases. Characters that are thoughtful and plotting will tend to have more conscise sentences. Characters that are unsure of themselves may ramble a bit more, illustrated by a few extra "and". Utilize catch phrases, but sparingly. Know what the character thinks of the person they are conversing with and modify their speech just slightly to fit it. For example, a character that tends to be gruff and pointed with his peers would likely change a little when talking with his long-time love of his life.

    Say he's speaking to his peer: "What do you expect us to do, run for shelter? We fight, that's what we do. So man up."
    But to his significant other about the same issue: "I'm worried we aren't prepared enough, not enough guns, not enough training. But what else can we do but move forward?"

    Same point, but notice he states concerns to the person he has a deeper connection with, while just issuing commands and mild insults to his peers.

    Start observing people around you and notice how their speech is impacted by their personality and with who they are interacting. It goes much deeper than a shy person stammering around their crush.

    Also, utilize beats. These are small actions that are being carried on around the conversation. Unless stuck in the formal livingroom on the plastic covered couch in Aunt Matilda's house, people rarely ever sit still while talking. I know while I'm catching up with my husband at the end of the night, I'm whacking fingers out of the dinner cooking on the stove, checking my voicemail and sighing that I've received the same wrong number three times this week, sweeping up the shattered remains of the ornament I really liked but the cat, apparently, did not, and jotting down items on the grocery list as they come to mind. Usually, all at once. Even IF stuck on the plastic covered couch, you are probably still picking at the plastic until a suprisingly large hole forms, continually retieing your shoelaces in attempt to make them perfectly even, or IM'ing on your laptop through the neighbor's unsecure wireless network.

    Life happens, constantly. And we are very likely sharing it, verbally.
     

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