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Writing Really Good Dialogue
Transcript of Writing Really Good Dialogue
In your story, you might think about the ways an accent, some slang, or funny quirks of speech can really work to enhance and define your characters. A character that says "Shiver me timbers!" all the time is certainly a different person than a character that says "Dude, totally!"
Writing good dialogue is like writing a comic strip. Comic artists only have so many boxes to fill before they run out of room. If they spend too much time on "Hey, dude, how are you?" pretty soon, they've run out of boxes.
Dialogue in a Story
Should do one, if not all, of the following:
1. Move the story forward
2. Increase the tension
3. Help to define characters
What is Dialogue?
Dialogue is what happens when two or more characters speak to one another. We experience dialogue all the time in our everyday lives.
Comic Strip Exercise
Here is some dialogue you might have heard today:
"Hey, dude. How are you?
"I'm really good. You?
"Good, thanks. Gotta go to Language Arts though, ugh."
Of course, this kind of dialogue is important. If we didn't say hello and ask people how they are doing, we might lose a lot of friends, fast. But in a story, long scenes of this kind of daily dialogue end up being boring.
Readers want to experience something outside of their everyday experience. They want to hear characters make interesting or exciting declarations, or challenge each other, or reveal the whereabouts of hidden treasure.
The phone rang, and Jerry picked it up.
There was a moment of silence on the other end, then, "Jerry? Is this Jerry Simmons?"
"Yes. Who's this?" Jerry asked.
"Jerry..." The other man paused. Jerry could hear him take a deep breath. "Jerry, my name is Dave. I 'm your brother."
"I don't have a brother." Jerry said, losing his patience. "My family died years ago."
"Not your whole family," Dave said.
Dialogue that moves your story forward:
Right away, we want to know who this Dave fellow is, if he's telling the truth, and how he found Jerry. Basically, we want to know what will happen next. In fact, this is a great inciting incident. The discovery of a long-lost sibling is certain to move your story forward in interesting ways.
"Dave!" Jerry shouted. "We've got to get away from here! The building's gonna blow!"
"We've got to go back!" Dave screamed.
Dave pointed at the roof. "Because Susan's still up there!"
Dialogue that increases the tension:
Talk about tense. Are Dave and Jerry going to save Susan? It's a matter of life and death here, and this little exchange of dialogue has us wanting more.
Dialogue that defines characters:
"What up, G-dawg?" Mark said. "You got a table for one? I'm starved!"
The waiter looked up to see Mark. "Good morning to you, young man. Welcome to our fine establishment."
"I've been playing Rock Band for 40 hours straight! I need like ten sandwiches!" Mark exclaimed.
"I am so sorry, but I am going to have to ask you to keep your voice down if we are to provide you with the ten sandwiches you requested," Greg said.
Obviously, Mark and the waiter are two very different people, and we can tell this just by the way they talk. It's likely that Mark is much younger than the waiter, and he is clearly more hip and excitable. The waiter, on the other hand, is more formal, and doesn't know the first thing about youth culture. He hasn't even heard of Rock Band! In just a few seconds of dialogue, the audience finds out a lot about these characters and how they relate to one another.
How to use dialogue correctly
When someone is talking, use quotation marks around what they say.
"Ms. Harris' class is the coolest!" Cory said!
When a new paragraph starts, or someone new starts talking, you start on a new line, and indent!
"I cannot wait for school to be out!" Ashley said, as she sighed and looked longingly towards the door.
"You've got a long to wait," Sera replied. "It's only first period."
"Ugh, don't remind me!" Jesse cried, throwing his head down dramatically onto his crossed arms.