1. Enyo
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    Enyo Member

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    Source for dialogue techniques?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Enyo, Aug 26, 2015.

    Can anyone point me to a source that helps with different techniques and methods of dialogue? Someone in the published forum recommended it, but I'm not having luck finding something in depth. Just a few tips here and there. Thanks!
     
  2. jakeybum
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    jakeybum Member

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    Try CMOS 16 ... uh-yah.
     
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  3. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read stage plays and screenplays. I read a book on dialogue once (a Writer's Digest book) but it was based on Plato's Dialogues which is cryptic as hell didn't help me understand dialogue at all.

    I figured out most of what I know about writing dialogue by reading screenplays and stage plays, then writing a lot of them, especially stage plays.

    About the only technique-y thing I was ever taught was in a class on writing for the stage. I was told that in order to keep stage directions to a minimum, the dialogue must reflect the movements and business the actors are carrying out or are about to carry out. The rest was just figuring out what the character wants/thinks and how much of that they're willing to reveal to the other characters in the scene.

    A couple of examples:

    Character A: Would you open that window, please?
    Character B: Sure... How's that?
    Character A: Not that one. The other one.
    Character B: You've got quite the obstacle course here. Just a second while I... Ow! I think I've done my back in. What the hell's in this trunk?
    Character A: Nothing you need concern yourself about.
    Character B: There. Better?
    Character A: A little wider, if you don't mind.

    Character A: I don't wanna read this book. Here. You read it.
    Character B: Not even if I put a gun to your head?
    Character A: What gun?
    Character B: This gun.
     
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  4. j7h18
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    j7h18 Member

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    Dustin Lee recommends eavesdropping on real conversations and looking at older works of dialogue rather than recent (because dialogue has gotten less complex and boring with social media)

    Here are some of his other suggestions:
     
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  5. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Listening in on conversations (and let's forget for a moment the affect social media has had) is only the first step. Dialogue isn't a faithful reproduction of what people say. The conversation you overhear will be boring if you write it down. Always has been and always will be, social media or no.

    Dialogue is based on conversation, but with the boring bits taken out. It's a simulation of conversation that moves the story forward by:
    1. revealing information the reader needs to know,
    2. revealing character traits,
    3. or attitudes,
    4. etc.
    What you need to listen for when eavesdropping (let's call it what it is) are the rhythms in how different people talk, what and how they're revealing their emotional state, and when (and take a guess at why) they choose not to talk or walk away completely.

    Then you take the essence of that rhythm and revelation and you use that to:
    1. reveal information the reader needs to know,
    2. reveal character traits,
    3. or attitudes,
    4. etc.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Learning dialogue from screenplay is fun, for sure, but beware of adopting the technique wholesale for novels or short stories. The difference is the audience can SEE what the actors are doing in a film, play or TV show. In a novel or short story, they can't. So you need a bit more if it's not going to end up being just talking heads.

    Get hold of some books on how to write the sort of thing you want to write. Not just one book, but several, so you don't just get one author's point of view. I imagine there is lots on the internet as well. Writers' Digest is a good source, as a magazine and also for the books they publish. And there are many books out there, some of which concentrate on dialogue and fitting it in with narrative.

    The best advice I can give, though is to READ. Read lots and lots of stuff you like, and start to get a feel for what dialogue does and what it looks like on the page.
     
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