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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Say what?

Dialogue is a funny thing. It can work for you, or against you.

Dialogue is all about the character. Simply put, rarely would you have a low educated character talk with perfect grammar or an English butler talk in slang.  Few people speak grammatically correct, so in effect, your dialogue should not be perfect so to speak LOL.

For example:

"I cannot come over to dine with you this evening because my mother has installed a new restriction on my social activities."  

Okay, obviously that is a little extreme, but that's the point.  A teenager would not speak in such a refined manner, but rather in contractions, slang, and inflection.

"I can't come over for supper 'cause my mom grounded me, again."

Being natural is important. Which brings up another good point, you want to be careful of stereotypical dialogue—TOO much character ie: Cowboys that darlin’ every girl in the story, or a mob guy asking, “You lookin’ at me? You lookin’ at me?” of everyone who may pass him on the sidewalk.

The best way to research dialogue and natural flow is to observe.  Take an afternoon to sit in a coffee shop, open a book (so you don’t look stalkerish) and just listen. Listen to inflection, contractions, tones, emotions (excitement and/or anger.) If you are writing a Young Adult, go where the teens are. If your characters are doctors and nurses, maybe try the lobby or cafeteria of a hospital—listen, observe, and assimilate.

And remember, not all conversations are all talk. This is important because if you have a page with a lot of dialogue but no actions dotted in here and there to show HOW the characters are speaking--or better yet, showing HOW the characters are acting/reacting to the conversation--then the scene can become stilted. The picture painted is of two people simply standing face to face, arms at their side, and speaking monotone. He said this; she said that. He said that; she said this. Bland.

On your observances of conversations, whether in a coffee shop, mall, or work environment, I’m sure you’ll find someone raising their hands in frustration or whipping around when offended in order to defend themselves. A subtle smile when they are being coy or tight fists around a coffee cup when they are trying to control their anger. All these observances are part of a conversationpart of the dialogue. Part of the character.

As always, most important is picking and choosing your words--or rather their words--carefully and placing action descriptives in tight phrasing only in the most dynamic area for the scene, because the last thing you want to do is overwrite a conversation with too many descriptions.

Balance is the key.

Where dialogue is concerned: Observe. Natural. Balance.

That about says it all.

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