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How do i make dialogue sound natural? (2 Viewers)

Everytime i try to write a story it(the dialogue) always sounds so unnatural, like a robot is speaking instead of people. I wonder whether it's because of my grammar or something else. Could anyone give me advice regarding how i could make it sound natural?

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Taylor

Friends of WF
When I write dialogue, I hear the character speaking in my head. My characters are based on people I know. So I imagine that person speaking. For example, two female friends having coffee. What would they sound like? What type of language would they use during that conversation? It would be very different than if they were having a business meeting.

But it has nothing to do with grammar. People often don't use the best grammar when they are speaking. They typically use short or incomplete sentences, and colloquial phrases or words. I suggest, try to imagine people you know speaking. And then just write it how you hear it.

 

TheMightyAz

Senior Member
Everytime i try to write a story it(the dialogue) always sounds so unnatural, like a robot is speaking instead of people. I wonder whether it's because of my grammar or something else. Could anyone give me advice regarding how i could make it sound natural?

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Do you read it out loud? No dialogue is perfectly natural. It's trying to make it sound like it is that's the trick ... and it aint easy. Perhaps post an example of your dialogue in the Writing Discussion section so people can take a look. It could be just the fact you 'think' it is and so read it that way.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
The Az is right, written dialogue is never natural. The real thing would be incomprehensible simply transcribed, people talk over each other, cut things short when they see the point has been made and use all sorts of body gestures and tonal clues to add meaning. You really are trying to create something artificial that seems natural, it is like an abstract picture of a real life scene where you can recognise it and the artist draws out the important elements, but you would never confuse it with the real thing.

Reading it aloud is a really good exercise, getting someone else to, even better. Notice all the places that sound awkward, the emphasis fell wrong first time round, there was an 'errm' or other hesitation. Those are good places to put some work in.
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
I tend to use dialogue pretty heavily in my narratives. I think my dialogue feels naturalish when I put enough work into it, but take what you will from my suggestions. :)

I use a fair amount of sentence fragments, especially one word sentences mixed in throughout my dialogue. I break up speech (a much as I can without losing impact or meaning) with a mixture of speech tags, descriptions, internal thoughts about current conversations, and punctuation. I use trailing thoughts, interruptions to speech, character specific language idiosyncrasies, whatever I can to give the illusion of natural language. I try not to get too heavy/obvious with any one strategy though. I read it back to myself and tweak things until it sounds more like something I have seen or could see a real person saying. I improve as much as I can, and I'm okay with a mix of neutral sounding dialogue (Maybe it doesn't scream natural speech, but it also doesn't scream written speech and it's hardly noticed when read, except for delivering information).
Finally, I ask for someone else to read it for me and give me their impressions.
 

vranger

Staff member
Board Moderator
Everytime i try to write a story it(the dialogue) always sounds so unnatural, like a robot is speaking instead of people. I wonder whether it's because of my grammar or something else. Could anyone give me advice regarding how i could make it sound natural?

Sent from my kukui using Tapatalk


There is a sticky on Dialogue in the Hints and Tips Forum, and we recently had some discussion here.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I think that the reason why dialogue in writing can be a challenge is because the conversations need to be a successful recipe of factors. The recipe is necessary because the writer isn't only having characters converse but also telling the story, continually keeping the scene set, making sure the story is going in the right direction.

Your question, though, seems to have mostly to do with the actual speech of the characters. How to write this so that it sounds natural rather than robotic.

How do you think of your characters? Are they constructs separate from yourself who you are 'making them say things' on the page or are they parts that you act, looking through their viewpoint? If it's the first option that may be causing the robotic voice.

Do you know who your characters are and why they're saying what they're saying? Can you feel their emotion and understand it without having to write down what it is?

Writing dialogue is a lot like method acting, becoming your character for a time.

A book to check out is Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Acting for Page, Stage, and Screen by Robert McKee. I'm still reading it I think I can safely recommend it.
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
Natural dialogues cannot always be done.
I'll give you an example, personal:
I know many vulgar people; every 3 words say a dirty word.
It is impossible to put in a book. I'm looking for a middle ground.
The neighborhood market, and a perfect place to hear how people speak. There are many ideas and inspirations.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
You should probably post a sample of dialogue.

I like what Foxee said. My dialog can sound unnatural when the speech is too good. Fragments might help too. It's a trade-off, right? I usually like the more natural dialog.

And dialog can sound unnatural when you're focusing on plot -- where you want the story to go -- versus what your character would likely say. Of course, your character might go off-plot, but I find that works for me.

There is a way of writing that does not correspond to how people usually talk. "Opening the door, I walked into the room."

And I found this:

"But you just appeared. Out of nowhere."


Erin: "Of course. That's the only way I travel."

The "Of course" adds nothing to the direction of conversation, it was just in there for naturalness.

(Disfluency and fragments are discussed in my book on Modern Punctuation and Grammar, which you can now buy instead of reading for free.)
 

K.S. Crooks

Senior Member
Try to incorporate aspects of the character's personality. If they're humorous, intelligent, serious, scared, etc , add something into their speech. Have the other characters react to their tone not only their words.
 

autumnst

Senior Member
I had this exact same problem and am still working on it, though I've gotten much better. For me, the reason I was so bad at writing dialogue was because I was not an auditory sort of person. At all. My main way of sensing and interacting with the world is kinesthetic, through motion, action, and feeling. On top of it, I was (am?) an introvert, so my 'ears' turned inward more often than outward. Thoughts, instead of conversations.

The turning point for me came when I transcribed an entire 3-hour D&D campaign. I was basically cured of my dialoguephobia. It was long, difficult, painstaking work, but it forced me to listen very closely, using my ears and underused auditory senses... which led to better dialogue. Not even kidding! I highly recommend the exercise.

To add onto it, after years of shunning audiobooks, I started listening to them and paying close attention to what was narrated. Lastly, I've been dabbling in speech-to-text dictation using a headset and computer app over the last few weeks. Maybe worth a try for you?

It's really about improving your listening and hearing muscles, because only then will you truly "hear" dialogue well enough to write it out of the imagination.

Lots of ways to approach it, but just like any skill, the only way to get results is to practice, practice, practice. I hope my tips are useful to you, or at least interesting!
 

LCLee

Senior Member
I agree your dialog should sound natural, but it can't be like real dialog. It must move the story forward, so you would never reflect on a memory that you haven't any use for in the story. Like Johnny was climbing a rock wall and in the middle of encouragement or discussion one of his friends says, "It's like the time you couldn't make your shore start last summer." The reader would think, what the hell is a shore start? Like AZ and others had mentioned, break it up, stay in the POV and move the story forward. Also, you can use a script to voice program to read back the dialog. I've had to make a lot of changes to my dialog by using that method.
 

Steve_Rivers

Senior Member
I find a good way sometimes is to try and write out the bullet points of what you want the dialogue to do, the most bare bone elements. Then play a game of "connect" to think up natural links the brain would come up with to connect the dots.
I dont do it for everything, but it helps get what you want out of the dialogue. While doing it I try to remember those *basic* points and have a conversation out loud pretending to be the characters involved. Then i scribble down anything that sounds flowing and natural. Sometimes my "conversational" brain will come out with gems of back-and-forth that make for memorable lines or even jokes.
 

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