Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fun With Dialogue And Stuff

So I'm finally getting back into the writerly swing of things in my sunny new home office, working my way through the Dreaded Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen Where Things Get Complicated. Not that things aren't complications in every chapter, but here I'm trying to construct some deception and in a way I feel like I'm writing a geometric proof.

My deception is based on dialogue, and two characters who each suspect the other of something terrible, but each are hiding secrets of their own. Trying to write their conversation makes my head hurt, because it's not just question and response, but what is character A not telling and what does character A think about character B that's not really true, but what can he say that will fit both what he knows and play into what character B believes about him, which also isn't really true. I ended up scribbling out two separate pages of what each one would want to say, and then tried to match them up like a puzzle. I've got it down now, but it's a pretty awkward conversation and will require much smoothening in a future draft.

In other news, I took quite the beatdown* in critique group this week from a CP who's having trouble with one of my character's dialogue. I do have a weakness for tossing in the random extremely formal line of dialogue--I think I read too much British lit when I was a kid. So at some point I'm going to have to go through the entire manuscript and highlight this character's lines to make sure his voice stays even.

Do you like writing dialogue? Got any good tricks for making it work?

*Not really a beatdown, I just like that word. It was more like bitter medicine--good for me, but still unpleasant to take.


  1. Think of a movie that is in a similar vein to the stuff you write, go to one of the online script vaults (Drew's, joblo etc) and find the script. Have a look at how a dialogue-based medium (movies) handles the kind of scenes you're look to write.

    I've found it very useful to do that, although try to avoide transcripts and use shooting scripts instead. Yo may need to do a bit of searching to find the one you're looking for though. The more famous ones are easiest to find.

    Moody Writing

  2. I agree with Mood on looking at dialogue from a movie. Sometimes I will even watch said movie to see if the dialogue came out as believable when said as when written.

  3. Glad to know that I'm not the only one who tosses in the formal dialogue on accident. (Thanks Agatha Christie. Love, 12-year-old me)

    Have you ever tried writing down other's conversations? Mildly creepy, but hit up your coffee shop and just jot down the conversations you hear. I was a little nervous when I first did it but I really think it helped me out.

  4. Dialogue can be a toughie. It's hard to consistently write in one character's voice, especially if you have so many to keep track of. I love moody's suggestion about dialogue in movies. :P Also do some random eavesdropping and observe how people talk. It's a great exercise for improving dialogoue.

  5. These are some great tips, thanks! I've never really paid close attention to movie dialogue, I guess--it's easy to let it just wash over you. And eavesdropping and transcribing sounds like fun--there was a good example of that on The Rejectionist today, actually.

  6. Yes, this is very hard. I've seen this done before and unless it's a who's on first thing, I frequently have said, "this can all be solved by someone just having a simple conversation and clearing everything up". Good luck, I know you are up for the task.