Posted in writing

The Writing Diaries pt. 5: Let’s Have a Conversation

As humans, we are blessed with the capability to have conversations with one another. Some of those conversations may be dreaded, others may be eagerly anticipated — and some conversations may be unexpectedly fascinating. Given the right circumstances, even the most introverted of introverts can find themselves invested in deep conversations at times. And whether we think so or not, the words we say, and the way we say them, say a lot about us. Tones, inflections, and word choice all play a huge role in how others perceive us. And that is especially true when it comes to novels.

Here’s a transcription of an interesting conversation I had, with my three-almost-four-year old nephew.

(Cat enters the scene.)

Nephew: “Can I pet him?!”

Me: “Sure you can!”

Nephew: *pets cat* “He’s so soft and crunchy!”

Me: “Um, yeah.”

Nephew:*pets cat again* *sniffs hand* “He smells like some kind of problem.”

Ouch. Sorry Rusty, you’ve been called out.

This conversation tells us a bit about what’s going on inside of my nephew’s head. He doesn’t dance around his words, but gets straight to the point, and tells us exactly what’s on his mind. (I’m kidding. I just thought the conversation was funny, and wanted to share it, lol.)

Back to the topic of today’s post which is — conversation, a.k.a., dialogue.

Dialogue is one of my favorite parts about stories. But what makes good dialogue? Inner monologue, thoughts, and prose, can tell us a lot about the characters or the story, but dialogue is how our characters interact with one another. And it can be tricky to write dialogue that feels authentic. I know we’ve all read the books with cringy, or overly-witty dialogue that no real person would say aloud. And then there are the long-winded lectures, usually found in older works. But among them all, thoughts and feelings are expressed. Just as in real life, our words carry weight, so it stands to reason that, in fiction, our words should be just as carefully chosen.

There are many ways to have engaging, and interesting dialogue; such as tones of voice, or a sense of sincerity behind the words. In one of my favorite books, The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, there is actually very little dialogue, but when a character speaks, it usually matters. Each character has a unique, and distinct voice, and you almost always know who is speaking without having to be told. Much of this has to do with word choice, or certain phrases. But this approach of less is more, is greatly due to subtext, a.k.a. the unspoken implications in books. (This element is something I’m still trying to grasp fully, to put to use in my own novel). When a character is depicted vibrantly enough, readers don’t need things to be over-explained and there is an understanding between the reader, and the character on the page. When your characters are well developed, and words aren’t necessarily spoken explicitly, we can still have empathy and understanding of the character, adding another layer of depth to the character’s interactions.

Something I’ve learned from my own projects, is that I must listen very closely to my characters. Until I’ve actually begun writing the story, I may not know if my character is one of few, or many words. One I may have thought more subdued, might surprise me, and end up being the comical one. And a character I may have thought more talkative, may end up being reluctant to give too much away. Another thing we all should be doing, is taking note from real life. When we’re talking to our parents, our friends, or listening to the way others are talking to one another, we should pay close attention. Try and listen for the subtle cues that keep the conversation flowing, or the ones that stifle it or turn things awkward. In other words, the best way to craft authentic dialogue is to take from our experiences in every day life.

Dialogue is probably one of the funnest parts of your novel to write, but it’s difficult too. Being a person of few words myself, I sometimes struggle to keep the conversations on the page flowing easily, (kind of like in real life, too). So I have to really dig down, and get deep into my character’s heads. While I may be the one writing out their words, I have to remind myself, that I’m not the character on the page. I think the best way to write great dialogue, is to become familiar with your characters so as to be true to their voice. I love to read honest conversations between characters, and see the way they interact with one another. One of the hardest jobs of being a writer, is to find that connection with your characters and to be honest and sincere on the page.

In closing, dialogue is something that can be overlooked when you begin working on a story, but it has the ability, and potential, to be a master tool in crafting deep, and impactful stories. So I just wanted to share some of my thoughts, and have a little chat on the subject. What is your approach when it comes to writing dialogue? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

10 thoughts on “The Writing Diaries pt. 5: Let’s Have a Conversation

    1. Thanks for reading!
      Glad I’m not the only one obsessed, lol! I enjoy dialogue in all shapes and forms, because it’s just so fun to listen to the characters talk with each other. 🙂
      And thanks! He’s got such a strong personality, lol.

      Like

  1. Hmm… When it comes to writing dialogue, my method is to just not overthink it. I’m mostly a character-driven writer, so I just let the characters talk. They usually lead me in the right direction, and, if not, and I find their personalities have warped slightly as I progressed with the project or I’ve added things to their backstories that don’t fit with a line here or there, it’s nothing a couple edits can’t fix, lol.
    I think key issues I had with dialogue would come when I accidentally world dump and load too much exposition into beginning dialogue. Or when a character is having something long explained to them by another character and the dialogue just keeps on coming, lol!
    But I’ve found solutions to these problems by splitting exposition up into dialogue, story events( meaning I reveal it when the information becomes relevant to the story), and inner dialogue. All based off of when I think the reader would need to know certain pieces of information about the story or characters.
    And for explanations for a character, I now punctuate long pieces of dialogue spoken by one character with actions by the character that’s speaking or other relevant descriptions. So the story and world feels like it’s still moving despite/along with the two or three paragraphs of speech.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good approach to take. Many times I tend to overthink things though, lol. But of course, editing can work miracles! XD
      Timing is really everything when it comes to information, but it can be very hard to place it just right within your novel. (And so tempting to put everything upfront!) Those are some great tips! Thank you for sharing them. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loveeee dialogue but it’s a great struggle for me to write. I think part of my problem is, like you mentioned, I haven’t come to know my characters enough or I’m not istening closely.
    I very much enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this! Great post! 😊
    That conversation with you nephew made me laugh! He sounds adorable. 😂❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m very much still trying to figure out my characters right now, and it’s a real struggle, lol.
      Thank you so much for reading!
      I’m happy my nephew made you laugh! He’s quite the character. XD

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love, love loved this.

    Dialogue for me is one of the most fun parts of writing (especially a good argument), and I TOTALLY get what you said about not really knowing your characters until you actually start writing. It’s hard to hear them, to really feel who they are till you’re actually IN the story with them. I think the one thing about dialogue is to make sure the characters are talking about important things, if you know what I mean? I think a lot of times when dialogue feels stilted in a book is when the characters are talking about something that is inconsequential to the story. It’s not moving the plot along, it’s not deepening the characters.

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! ❤
      That's a really good point. I think I've experienced that exact issue, where something in the scene just didn't feel right, and it was because the conversation was going nowhere. I'll definitely keep that in mind from now on. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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