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Transcript of Writing Dialogue
Why and How to Let Your Character Speak
The Purpose of Dialogue
What to do when writing dialogue...
It's more interesting!
Adds details and believability
helps readers understand a character better
Strengthens characterization and
Think about how people really speak.
Break up dialogue with action.
Use correct punctuation.
Comic Strip Exercise
Using the picture as your inspiration, free write. Who are these two characters? What are they talking about? How might what they are saying to each other reveal details about their characters?
"Good morning Janet, how are you?"
"Oh I'm fine thanks, how are you?"
"Not too bad thanks. Lovely weather today is it not?"
"Yes, gorgeous. Thank goodness the rain has stopped."
"Yes, I thought it would go on forever. That's a nice dress you're wearing."
Why is this bad dialogue?
How to use dialogue tags...
Create a short dialogue between two characters in your story by completing a comic strip.
Remember that your dialogue should move your story forward and help your reader get to know your characters.
"What time did he show up?" she asked.
"It was sometime after the late show ended. Not the one with Letterman, but the one after that," he answered. He looked at her and bit his lip. It seemed that the stress of the situation was making him fairly nervous.
"The one with Conan?" she offered.
He nodded. "Yeah."
Each time the speaker changes, start a new paragraph.
Periods, commas, and other punctuation located at the end of dialogue are always placed INSIDE quotation marks.
"What did he say when you opened the door?" she asked.
He considered then answered, "I asked him what he wanted. You know, it was late."
"So," she prompted, "what did he want?"
"Well, um," he faltered. "He wanted to borrow some money from me. I guess he'd gotten in some trouble."
For a quotation where the speaker talks for more than one paragraph, the end of the first paragraph does not have quotation marks and the second paragraph starts off with quotation marks.
"Well, he's been my friend for a long time and he was always there for me when we were growing up. So, yeah, of course, I'm going to give him the money. I didn't have that much cash on me. I offered to write him a check, but he turned me down. I guess he didn't think my check was gonna clear. Anyway, so I went out to the ATM and got some more. He came with me.
"What's odd, though, is that when we got back to my place, I couldn't even talk him into coming back in for a drink or nothing. That's just not like him, you know. He's always willing to come in and just hang for a spell. You think maybe, you know, he's in real trouble?" he asked, his forehead creased with concern.
When the dialogue tag is in the middle of one spoken sentence, the tag is followed by a COMMA and the first letter of the dialogue is NOT capitalized (excluding proper nouns).
"I suppose," she commented, "that depends on what you call real trouble."
When the dialogue tag is after one complete spoken sentence and before a second complete spoken sentence, the tag is followed by a PERIOD and the first letter of the dialogue IS capitalized.
"I wouldn't expect that from him," he explained. "He's really just a straight up kind of guy."
Dialogue tag— the part in dialogue that indicates who the speaker is. For example: he said, she replied, etc.
A dialogue tag does not have to be included EVERY time the speaker changes. In fact-- dialogue tags should be used SPARINGLY.
If the speaker is clear, such as in an exchange between two people, the tag can, and should be left out. This makes the dialogue flow since the reader is just following the conversation. The writer disappears, rather than interrupt the scene to stick "he said" or "she exclaimed" into it.
As Mark Twain said, “Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” Meaning don’t use “she screamed” but use her words to show she is screaming.
Ex: "Did you take his car?"
"Well, see, we kind of did."
(Some writers might put he hedged but we can tell the speaker is hedging-- trying to not answer the question-- by WHAT he actually says.)
Writing really 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 dialogue like "Hey, dude, how are you?" pretty soon, they've run out of boxes!
Bad Example of Dialogue....