Let me introduce you to ‘Writing 101‘. This is something new I wanna try out. Writing 101 are writing tips, advice, and techniques that I’ve either learned through trial and error, or that were passed along to me, in which I am now passing along to you. If you’re been writing on a serious level for any length of time, I’m sure you may be familiar with some the experiences and info I’ll be sharing, so feel free to provide input and feedback, at any time. The ‘Today’s Lesson‘ portion of it, is simply the material that I’ll be covering for the moment. So, with no further ado, let’s get started.
TODAY’S LESSON: CHARACTER DIALOGUE:
I love character dialogue! You can do so much with character dialogue; you can tell your entire story, or create a specific mood, scene, or setting. Character dialogue also allows you to display cultural or ethnic differences between characters by giving you the ability to have characters speak in different languages, inflections, and accents. Character dialogue also enables you to enhance or tone-down a character’s personality, and believe it or not, you can even alter the rest of your story from a single conversation piece! I get a lot of compliments, as well as questions about my character dialogue, so today, I’ll be sharing the things, and/or process I keep in my mind when writing character dialogue.
STEP 1: GET IT OUT YOUR HEAD & IN WRITING:
When it comes to conversation between 2 or more characters; usually, as writers, we already have a slight, or general idea of how we the upcoming scene or conversation to go, so the first thing you have to do is, turn that thought into written words. It doesn’t matter if you type it, jot it down on a ‘sticky-pad‘, create a footnote; whatever you have to do to get it in writing–Do it, we’ll worry about grammar and all that later.
STEP 2: DON’T READ IT!:
Alright, so you just got your literary, or writing ‘flow-on‘, you’ve gotten that conversation piece out of your mind, and in writing. The first thing you’re gonna do is; take a deep breath, light a cigarette and take a nice, relaxing sip of that Budweiser, coffee, or wine, while you go back and re-read the dialogue. . .WRONG! Put the cigarette out, and put down the beer, wine, and coffee, and above all. . .DO NOT READ IT!! It’s a natural habit, and instinct for us, as writers to go back and re-read things after we’ve just had a ‘flow‘. In some cases, such as a narrative passage, it’s okay to do that, but not when it comes to dialogue, I’ll explain why in the next step, so again. . .DON’T READ IT!
STEP 3: WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE CONVERSATION?
Before you go back and re-read the dialogue or conversation you just wrote, first stop & think about what you wanted to accomplish with it–What was the nature of the conversation or dialogue? Was it to foreshadow or setup an upcoming event(s)? Was it supposed to focus on a single character or group of characters? Was it to reveal something that was previously foreshadowed? More importantly. . .and again, without going back to re-read it. . .Do you believe it did so? These are things you need to have in your mind before you re-read it.
STEP 4: WHAT IS THE MOOD/SETTING?
No! You still can’t read it! Stop asking, and stop trying to! So you’ve thought about, and hopefully determined the nature of your conversation or dialogue, now you have to think about it’s mood and/or setting. How many characters are involved? If more than two characters are conversing, those everyone in the group speak? Is it necessary for everyone to speak? What are each character’s mood? Are they all angry, happy, or sad, or are there mixed feelings and emotions amongst them? Did you intend for the dialogue or conversation to be calm or confrontational? Was it supposed to be lighthearted and funny, or somber and serious? Does it supposed to begin one way (i.e. happy or sad), and escalate or de-escalate, and end the opposite way it began? Once again. . .Without re-reading it, do you believe you created the mood or setting you intended for it to have?
STEP 5: YES!. . .READ IT!!
Now that you know what you’re looking for, you can finally scratch that itch, and satisfy that craving, and read it! You do know what you’re looking for, right? You’re looking to see if your mood/setting is present, and whether or not you’ve determined or established the nature of your dialogue and/or conversation. If those things are in tact, and satisfactory to you, then you’re ready to move on, if not, then make adjustments, and move forward.
STEP 6: HOW DOES IT SOUND?
Ok, if you’re satisfied with the nature and mood, and you’ve made any adjustments you felt were necessary, then the next thing to ask yourself is how does it sound? The answer you’re looking for here, is a dialogue or conversation piece that sounds, ‘natural’, meaning it should sound like you’re either talking to your friends or observing a real-life conversation. It shouldn’t be excessively ‘grammatically-correct‘, as conversations in real-life aren’t always ‘grammatically-correct‘. Don’t get me wrong, punctuation and grammar rules should always be exercised, but in conversation and dialogue pieces, you also have the ability to ‘bend‘ or even ‘break‘ them in some cases.
STEP 7: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Alright, so now your dialogue and/or conversation is altogether, and now’s the time for that cigarette, beer, wine, or coffee. Initially, this could seem like a lot to take in and keep in mind while you’re writing, but it really isn’t, and we as writers, already have the ability to actually be writing one thing, while a million others are running through our mind, so all you have to do is simply practice, and/or keep these things in mind, and pretty soon, just like anything else in life–the more you do it, the easier it gets! Thanks for reading!
— F. Kenneth Taylor