- M. Dalto
Writer Wednesday: Dialogue, Your Characters, and You!
Any decent work of fiction needs dialogue. It helps propel a plot forward, allows your characters to interact and grow with each other as well as themselves, and can also assist in building the world your story creates.
Now I know there are some of us who dread writing dialogue - you’d much rather elaborate on the scene before your characters than having to actually make them interact with each other. Surprising as it may be, I actually prefer dialogue than describing a scene, and that is why this is going to be a conversation about dialogue rather than a world-building exercise!
Okay- so let’s start with an easy question.
What is Dialogue?
Dialogue, in its simplest form, is a conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie.
Seeing as we’re all here writing stories, we’ll use ‘book’ in this instance.
To have a conversation, you need at least two entities -- I say this because it doesn’t necessarily need to be two people. One can speak to a spirit, a god, or their own subconscious, but either way, there need to be at least two parts to a conversation to make it dialogue.
Now, can you have a dialogue with more than two people? Sure you can, if you’re willing to take that on. The more characters you choose to put in a scene, the more you, the writer, needs to keep track of. Every character, whether they’re directly taking part in the dialogue or not, is their own entity, and as such needs to convey their own emotions and characteristics, as well as their own voice.
Imagine each scene of your story just like that - a scene in either a television show or a movie that you’re watching from the audience’ perspective. Explaining the setting is easy enough, so when you describe your characters in the midst of their conversation, the same rules should apply.
What are your characters doing while they’re talking? Are they standing still with their hands in their pockets, or flailing them around to emphasize their point? Are they sitting with their arms braced against the edge of a table, or are they lounging, relaxed in a plush armchair?
Your character's actions during a dialogue can convey their moods and feelings just as much, if not more, than the words they’re saying. And once you can start to picture the scene, it’ll be easier for you to write it, and conveying the emotion and/or plot points you want your conversation to deliver will flow smoother for your audience.
Another hiccup, however, that can jar a reader is grammar, especially within dialogue.
Now, I am in no way an expert when it comes to grammar, but I believe I’ve written enough to know what looks right, and what does not. And when I’m not sure, I’ll be the first to admit that I will turn to Google to help me figure it out. Either way, if you’re unsure, always check your work, otherwise you know the writing community will be more than happy to do it for you.
Lastly, one of the reasons I enjoy dialogue so much is that it gets my word count soaring. Once I get into the midst of a scene where there are two people verbally going at it, one against the other, something about the emotion and forward-movement of the story I’m telling just makes my fingers dance over that keyboard. Dialogue makes my characters come to life, and I adore every letter, every words I can contribute to that.