Dialogue writing tips?


#1

I always have a hard time writing dialogue that doesn’t sound stupid. All I can think about, to make it flow naturally, is having someone else know the information to be delivered and ask them to go through the scene with me. Does anyone have any tips?


#2

I’m terrible too…best advice I heard is to listen to dialogue in public and take notes


#3

I think writing dialogue for the MC is VERY hard, and there’s a reason many CoGs and HGs shy from it - it’s hard enough to capture a player’s personality, but to capture his/her speaking style is VERY challenging.


#4

Maybe use someone as a base for your character to help you figure out what they would say and how they would say something in a certain situation? They don’t have to be real people either.


#5

It definitely helps to decide the “voice” of the characters you’re writing for. Do they tend toward formal or informal speech? Do they use a kind of slang? Do they like using long words? Do they beat around the bush before getting to the point? Use metaphors? old-fashioned expressions? Do they always talk about themselves? etc. You can convey a lot of a character’s personality through dialogue - which is a good reason to avoid it for main characters in interactive fiction, as was said above.


#6

Uuugh, it’s definitely hard to avoid using MC dialogue in the story I’m working on. I hope it doesn’t bother anyone too much.


#7

Go with what you feel is right. Once you got enough ‘verbal meat’ on your story you can post up a demo and get feedback. Seems to me like that is a good approach.

I will do that with my story once I feel it is worthy (and the month has ended). :slightly_smiling:


#8

Well, reading/speaking out loud is a good way to see if something feels natural. And it helps if you don’t make it one huge piece of text. Put feelings / expressions in it.

“I want you to leave now.” Your tone, although not yet raised, must have made it clear to … that you aren’t kidding. Still, he isn’t making indication of leaving. “I said go, now!” The sudden anger in your voice finalilly gets … moving. As he closes the door behind him you sigh, feeling tension leave your body. “I thought he’d never leave, stupid idiot.”

And things like it is are better written as it’s since it’s more natural to speak like that unless a character is very formal. Lastly you can throw in a few ehm, or err to show doubt although it’s best to only do that with a few characters as it can get anoying. But by having one or two characters talk like that you can give them a certain personality.

That’s all I can think of right now, other than @Falingard already said. Know what kind of person the character is which is speaking.


#9

I’m no writer myself. But I’ve always appreciated dialogue that’s short and to the point. Not to the extent of everything being two word sentences, but tidy and expressive (like Mr Wolf’s example above).


#10

I find it easier to highly develop the character in your mind first. I find a well designed and fleshed out character’s dialogue will come to you naturally, you will know what they will say or how they will act in a given scenario. As already mentioned fleshing out details (like how they speak) will help you with this.


#11

Habits.
When people speak irl they adhere 5o a set of habits without knowing it. And everyone does it. From words to structure. You’ll also notice that family members tend to adopt the same pace of speaking. Essentially no different than an accent.

So for different characters choose a few habits to pepper into their interactions. Sarcasm, pauses, larger words, rapid speech, rambling, and even words they LIKE to use more than others.

That’s usually what I do. Hope it helps.


#12

This is how I do things:

Give your NPC a personality. What they like doing. What they dislike, how they handle certain situations and even give them pet hates and guilty pleasures.

Once this is done, dialogue will form on its own. The main questions to ask yourself:

‘what would an x kind of person respond to that?’
‘how would x approach this?’
‘how would x have a personal conversation?’

This is the easiest method for me. Like @CJW said, fleshing them out makes things simpler.


#13

Reading the dialogue out loud to myself (with a few different inflections to try and accommodate for how different people might view it on the page) and listening for anything that sounds “clunky” or just like something that doesn’t flow in a satisfactory way has helped me weed out unnatural words or phrasing!

I also agree with the use of conjunctions or even slang based on the character’s background and personality.


#14

Written dialogue to read is usually quite different from spoken dialogue in a movie or on TV. There are a lot of books (especially by people like Stephen King) who write dialogue that might be brilliant on a page, but would be leaden in a screenplay said out loud.

Here’s an article for you.


#15

One thing to remember is not to be too true to life - real people speaking can repeat themselves and ramble on or talk about nothing much, but in a novel a reader will quickly get bored with dialogue like that. It’s also best to be sparing when writing characters with an accent, as phonetically transcribed accents can be hard to understand at best and annoying at worst.


#16

I would like to wholeheartedly second @Nathan_Faxon 's suggestion.

What’s the most important when trying to think of a dialogue is to know your characters well, and know how they’d interact with each other. If they only just met in your story, then their interactions and dialogues should change accordingly, as they get to know each other better throughout the course of the story.

I wouldn’t really advise you to start listening to how people talk in the bus, or stuff like that. You have to write based on things you already know, you can’t just start paying attention to these things starting now. It doesn’t have to be how people in the real world talk. Think of how people talk in a game, in a movie or in a book. Anything will do.

Need dialogue for a generic thug in your story? Think of how Kano acts in Mortal Kombat. Need a wise old man? Think of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings or Dumbledore from Harry Potter. Once you’ve got the right stereotype in mind, you then need to add some flavor, by thinking of some character specific traits. Then add some background, and you should be set to go.

The trick is to get the character to be alive inside your head, and actually imagine them talk and interact with each other. If you don’t do that, writing dialogue is going to become a pain, and will sound mechanic and dull. Dialogue should never be used just for moving the plot in a certain direction. Many people consider dialogue between characters to be the most fun thing to read in a book, so if you don’t nail it right, you might lose a lot of fans.


#17

Like Harrison Ford said about Star Wars, ‘George, you can type this shit, but you can’t say it!’ - it worked great on paper, which is what we do here (digital), but not out loud. Different media, different approach. :relaxed:

But what @Nathan_Faxon said, the characters will get their own voice. But take care so they don’t take control from you, that rebel scum. :grin:


#18

Ninja’d. :slight_smile: One of my all time favorite quotes from Star Wars.


#19

From my experience working with my project, ‘Monsters’, which heavily focuses on dialogue, there are a few things I can think of that might be considered tips.

One is that dialogue can define a character in the same sort of way that description and actions can. Word choices, mannerisms, they all over a long term very much give a complete description for a character. It’s easier to do for NPC type characters, because you’re choosing their personality as an author, and personality creates dialogue… rather than giving the player the choice of that personality and trying to cover all the bases. It can be done, certainly, but it is more of a challenge.

Another is that dialogue is not just what a character says. It’s also how they say it. Adding something as simple as ‘she huffed.’ or ‘she blurted, standing up suddenly.’ to the end of a bit of dialogue can completely change and add character to how that dialogue comes across for a reader. Dialogue can conjoin with actions to add greater meaning and depth, such as: “No, it’s because I love him.” she admitted. … compared with “No, it’s because I love him.” she admitted, her eyes glancing at you pleadingly.

Dialogue can have quirks that are as definitive to a character as unique physical features. For example, I have one character who speaks very rapidly and doesn’t use contractions, “So-all-of-her-words-tie-together-like-this-to-express-the-character-rattling-off-words-very-quickly.” - And then, sometimes, she doesn’t speak rapidly, and those -'s aren’t used, and that makes anything she says normally actually stand out. It gives it significance. Another character peppers his speech with frequent cursing and colorful language, which makes that character who he is as much as his appearance or actions.

Don’t use dialogue choices as in-game choices unless you are a glutton for punishment! I’m doing so… but it creates a ridiculous amount of work for conversations. Even when it only happens once in a while. It’s probably better to save choices for actions, or even how the MC is thinking. Branching dialogue is a heckalotta work.

A really brilliantly created character won’t always say (or do) what the author wants. If that ever happens, roll with it. It’s a strange phenomena but if it ever happens to you, you’ll know what I mean. Don’t let it sideswipe your story, though.

As something you can do for practice… if you’re ever writing a conversation between characters… speak your replies out loud before writing them. It can help you figure out if it sounds ‘right’ or not, that way.

Hope these thoughts might help some. : )


#20

Personally I love writing dialogue. “Hearing,” my characters’ voices in my head is really how I get to know them. I inevitably end up cutting pages of dialogue out of my stories, but it’s still useful. Figuring out what they’d say always helps crystallize what my characters will do, and feel.