Sunday, January 25, 2009

How to Write Dialogue - Part 2

Last time was more general, about the different approaches to writing dialogue. Now I'll try to talk a little about some practical techniques. To me dialogue is one of the hardest things to write, so forgive me if my advice is less than stellar. However, if you have a hard time with dialogue, my tips may help some.

1) Be the character for while - This can be very embarrassing, but it is effective. For a period of time, pretend you are one of your characters. Do it while you make dinner, sort through the mail, and talk to your family. Before they haul you off to the loony bin, you might want to tell your family what you are doing. The point here is not to play out your dialogue, but to get into the head of your characters. After you live through some casual conversation and activity of your characters, you will be much more prepared to write dialogue that sounds true.

2) Role play with your friends and family - Once again, embarrassing but effective. The key here is to hear your dialogue out loud, spoken by different people who are interacting. This method makes it easy to find dialogue that just does not work, and it can also help you improvise new dialogue that is more organic.

3) Stop worrying about squeezing in your information - This is a tricky one. Obviously when writing a novel, you are trying to get information across to the reader and stir up emotion. If you focus on the information it can cause your dialogue to sound more like a school lecture, delivering that information. Use steps 1 and 2 to drive realistic dialogue. If you don't communicate everything you want to get across, consider some narrative with thoughts and reflections. If that doesn't work, start tinkering with the dialogue, but don't allow it to become stale.

Believe me, I want to write dialogue that jumps off the page and allows the reader to believe every word was really spoken by real characters. It may take months or years to get there, but the first step is to write it down, revise it, and make it as real as you can at this point. I try not to beat myself up for not being the king of dialogue, and neither should you. Just work on your craft along with me and see your work improve with time.

That's all for now. Until next time, let's keep on writing.

No comments: