Dialog -- I need help with it


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Thread: Dialog -- I need help with it

  1. #1

    Dialog -- I need help with it

    Can someone post some general rules about dialog? I have a piece (which I have not posted here) which I've been told needs help with dialog.

    I'd appreciate any help.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    Robert G. Allen

  2. #2
    It is always difficult when there is not something specific to refer to, however the usual problem with dialogue is that people try to replicate actual speech, or what they think is actual speech. In fact when people are talking there are so many other clues in tone, gesture, facial expression etc. that people see the intention before the sentence is complete, this leads to interruption and unfinished sentences. Real dialogue written out verbatim can be almost unintelligable. Part of the trick is to create something which is clear and precise, but still believable as coming from real people.

    Vocabulary can help considerably, try and get the person's voice clear in your head, not simply the tone, but the sort of person they are as well, then think "Would someone with their background and prejudices phrase things like this?"
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  3. #3
    WF Veteran Like a Fox's Avatar
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    I think dialogue, like anything, can be stylistic. My writing is very dilaogue-heavy, often without tags (as in, I don't tell you who is talking). Sometimes because it should just be obvious, or you know which character in the scene would or wouldn't say that, and sometimes because it just doesn't matter (if a big group of guys are making dirty jokes or something). I also, usually, use informal language and swear a lot in my dialogue. I hate expository dialogue (That is, revealing plot points through wooden unbelievable conversation between characters). I prefer writing banter to add humour and sound to whatever I'm writing. Also to show relationships.

    I've also seen very stark dialogue work well.

    Is presentation of dialogue an issue? As each person talks it should start on a new line. The dialogue should be contained within dialogue tags (or whatever their real name is.) I always try to make it really clear.

    "Like this?" You might ask.
    "Sure, make it clean and clear. Separate lines for whoever is talk..."
    "...What about interrupting?"
    "I guess what you just did there might work."
    "Cooooool!"


    Haha. And now you know to take my tips with a big grain of salt.
    "I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better." - A. J. Liebling

  4. #4
    Thank you. No, it's not a presentation issue -- I've been posting in fora for ages so I know how to make it come out looking right. The thing is, people say i have issues but aren't specific as to just what they are.

    My issue with posting it is that I don't like showing my warts. I know there are issues so I'm really self-conscious about it.

    I just posted Something Else though so I have some commenting to catch up on before I post that piece.

    (I also wonder if I have problems with the piece i did post that no one has told me about -- it's The Power of Love in General Fiction)
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    Robert G. Allen

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by astroannie View Post
    My issue with posting it is that I don't like showing my warts. I know there are issues so I'm really self-conscious about it.
    If it helps, every one of us has been there. The way to overcome it is to show your warts. It's really quite painless, so there's nothing to be shy about.

  6. #6
    Okay, it's posted. it's called The Juice.

    I'm not very good with linking stuff, sorry.

    It seems I re-posted the original of Power of Love -- I made revisions based on feedback from others and apparently logged out without saving or something. But the #1 comment with The Juice was that I needed help with the dialog. But dayum, no one is telling me what *kind* of help.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    Robert G. Allen

  7. #7
    Make sure the dialogue sounds natural for the character. Also dialogue should not be used to convey information between the author and the reader. So don't use it to explain anything concerning the story or the history of the characters. Try not to rely on dialogue too much. If a story contains too much dialogue it reads more like a screenplay. Exchanges between characters should be as short and direct as you can make them.

    I often have the problem of babbling too much, getting carried away with my writing and end up with too much conversation between characters.

    I use it to allow characters to define themselves (characterisation), or to progress the plot. I am very suspicious if my dialogue reveals something about the story.

  8. #8
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    There are no hard rules to dialogue besides:

    1) Make it fit the character.

    2) Make it sound natural.

    The first is the hard one, as you have to take into account possible slang and general uniqueness in peoples' vocabularies as well as a style of speaking (clipped sentences as opposed to rambling, blustery statements). Really, this all has to be sorted when you're designing a character, so just do your structure work well, and it should help you some.

    The second just comes down to re-reading every line of dialogue and asking yourself if it sounds like something a human being might actually say, or if there's a more human (or more fitting to the character) way of stating it. (Coda to this: use contractions.)

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