The phone rings a few times and someone picks up. I have a hard time hearing over the sound of WWE blaring in the background.
“Hey,” I said, waiting for my brother to figure out who I am.
“Hey T!” He got it.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing much, what are you up to??”
“Nothing much. Is Mom around?”
“Yeah, hold on a second.”
This is an example of what the conversation sounds like when I call my Mom’s house. It’s boring and bland as dishwater. This is not the kind of scintillating conversation you want to relay in your dialogue in your stories. Continuing with the ABCs of Writing, today we’re at D. D is definitely for Dialogue. If you missed letter A, letter B, and letter C, check them out.
Now going along with the above example, instead of using this boring beginning for a conversation, I could write a dialogue of my mother not being able to hear me, even after the television volume is set at a dull roar. Or we could dispense with the awkward beginnings all together and dive directly into the meat and potatoes of the conversation.
I’m nosy as hell, which is great for writing dialogue! Listening to others talk is probably the best way to learn how people speak. Do you ever listen to conversations going on around you? Whether you’re at work, public transport, standing in line for a Big Mac or what have you, pay attention to what is being said about you.
You’ll notice a few things:
- People who know each other, don’t necessary begin conversations the say way as everyone else. Two friends may greet each other with hugs, a silly handshake shake, a shriek of excitement, or just launching right into the gossip of the day. Two people who aren’t as friendly may be more stilted. Mother and small child will have a very different conversation than the mother and her girlfriend/wife.
- The pitch changes, the more intimate the information, the lower the volume (generally). They may lean toward each other a bit to show they’re really getting into that conversation. Or bring a hand up to the ear so whispering can happen.
- There’s a lot of “Umms…Uhhh…Like…Err….” and other fillers littering the conversation landscape. Also…pauses happen. (However, too much of this in the conversation makes it boring and drag a bit.)
- If you’re not looking at the people, you may miss part of the conversation, because there’s silent communication too. Gestures, significant pauses with raised eyebrows, sideward glances all make the conversation a richer landscape.
- Everybody sounds different. They ain’t perfect grammar speakin’ automatons. They may skip over words in excite, use slang, speak with colloquialisms, they swear, make loud exclamations, etc. They have a distinct voice.
- They’re not telling every single detail of a situation, but you’re probably able to piece together what’s going on.
Those 6 tips that I’ve learned from being a super ninja conversation spy helps me to write conversations that aren’t wooden. But what else can you do to make the dialogue interesting? Make sure you’re not just writing dialogue for your reader. Try to write the dialogue like you’re literally just writing for those two characters…and your reader is listening in. It’s not about the reader, it’s about your characters. Once you know your characters inside and out, this will be much easier to execute. Yesterday’s post can help you with that point.
Those are it for the ABCs of Writing for today. Do you have any tips for interesting dialogue? Any favorite bits of dialogue you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments down below!
If anyone is interested, I will be hosting a liveshow on my YouTube channel tonight discussing writing goals for the 1st quarter. If you’re interested watching it, but aren’t available at 8 p.m. EDT, don’t fret my pet. It’ll upload onto my channel after the broadcast is complete.
See you tomorrow with letter E!
When you’re reading a story, what grabs you the most- plot or character?
With me, it’s character. I enjoy reading a well-written character, who’s multifaceted and interesting. Of course, it’s easier said than done. I’m not an expert, but I do think I have an idea on how to get your characters moving and grooving in an interesting way. Here are five tips for writing characters who are interesting and realistic:
Tip 1: Name that tune
What is your characters name? Is there significance to it? (A family name? Has Name a certain meaning? Etc.) What does your character look like? You don’t have to go into every insignificant detail. If you do, it’ll start to feel to your reader like you don’t trust them to make some decisions. Describe parts that are important and that give your character shape. If your character is someone who has a hard lifestyle, talk about those lines on his face, the jagged scar running down her thigh. Those puffy bags under his eyes from his habitual drinking tell a lot about who he is and what he does.
Tip 2: Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?
What are the qualities that your characters exhibit? Are they shy? Quick to anger? Incredibly insecure? Do you have friends who have qualities that make them a bit alike so they’re more likely to clash, but on some issues, they’re really steadfast? Don’t be afraid to mix it up and give your character seemingly opposing traits- the shy librarian who has a wild streak. The angry bartender with a soft side for baby kittens. You get it.
Tip 3: So what’cha, what’cha, what’cha want, what’cha want?
What drives your characters? What pushes them to make moves? What is the thing that they want the most? And what is the thing that they need? The need is going to be what really drives the underlying story. Is it love? To have an actual home? Revenge? To deal with grief? Knowing these elements to your characters will make them richer and more interesting to write and ultimately for your readers to experience.
Tip 4: It’s a family affair…it’s a family affair…
Here’s one thing that shapes us all in the best (and sometimes worse) ways possible: our families. Who is your character’s family? Is there some mommy or daddy issues lurking in the background? Was the family wonderfully supportive and amazing, but had terrible luck that destroyed things? Is your character’s family gone now and he’s all on his own? Was his grandfather abusive? His mother likes a little coffee in her Baileys? Having that family background and learning her roots will show you more about how she will react in the future to the obstacles (and opportunities) you plop in her path.
Tip 5: My flaws are the only thing left that’s pure
Do not write characters who are perfect. Give them moments where they stumble, crumble, and break down. The most interesting traits of characters are how they react when things don’t go their way. Yes, it can be hard to make your character go through the bad, but in order to get to the good, there must be some bad. It’ll increase the level of tension, make the conflict more intense, and just generally makes for better writing.
Did you guess the lyrics? Do you have a favorite character from books or movies? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you like talking about writing, join us at the #writestuff Twitter chat every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT. Find me on there: @penpaperpad.