‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’
‘Words are not worth the paper they are written on.’
‘Read aloud, it’s little but hot air.’
‘A picture paints a thousand words.’
Interesting stuff, don’t you agree? Each of these carries a certain poetry, a deeper meaning, an understanding. I like these quotes, I do. They make for strong statements, and empowering edicts. They’ve been said before, and they’ve been said again, but they each started somewhere.
Dialogue in a story follows each of these notions. These notions are dialogues in themselves. Today class, we’re going to explore dialogue, and how best to utilise this in your stories/novels/books/epics/scripts/pleas of innocence.
(((Small print: Here at Emrys Evidence Evasions Ltd. We do not accept any liability for loss of limbs during a court case after the unseemly incident with the hamster and the spaghetti meatballs...)))
Now, I’m not a professional when it comes to writing and the laws unto which it is judged, but I count myself as a dab hand at conversational skills. I may not be a world class orator, but I can hold my own over a cup of coffee and any given topic. But, being able to speak is very different to writing the ‘spoken word’, particularly in a story.
Firstly, when writing dialogue make sure you’re in the character’s mindset. Once inside their head, start wagging the tongue and see what comes out. Dialogue should feel RIGHT for your character. For example, I have a village Blacksmith by the name of McGowan. He’s a simple man, with simple needs and simple complaints. So, when things go awry he doesn’t whine with a “The end of the world is nigh!” he shrugs and says “Fair’s fair.” I know McGowan, he’s one of my creations, so I make sure he sticks to his identity.
In the same vein, as McGowan belongs to a fantasy realm, he doesn’t slip into slang or real world profanities such as “Heaven’s to betsy!” and “Oh my god!” No, no. McGowan would rather curse to the gods of HIS world e.g. “Fraid and Govannon’s bloodied blades! What was that?” Remember, when writing, your characters may exist in a different world, time, whatever, so they won’t always speak like you do! This can be fun too, as you can make up whatever you want – you’re a writer after all, that’s what you do!
Avoid blocks of speech. Conversations aren’t once sided. Have characters reason things out between the two of them – you’re not going to get far with A telling B what to do, and B holding no opinion of his own and just nodding and agreeing...unless B is a wall, at which point you have a character and a wall...but now I’m straying from my point. See what I mean? I’ve just rambled. Because I’m talking to myself, and have no-one to respond. I’m dragging it on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on...ok, you get the idea.
Also, with dialogue be aware that ‘tags’ aren’t always necessary. Not every sentence should finish with ‘he said’. I don’t say everything. Do you? I shout sometimes, I murmur, whisper, grunt, sigh etc. But don’t just limit yourself to speech tags. Throw in actions. For example: a shrug, a nod, a smile. If it important to note, however, that with the write dialogue, you won’t even need a tag, as the line itself should carry and portray the intent and delivery.
Lastly, when writing dialogue...read it aloud. It’s dialogue! IT’S A CONVERSATION! If it doesn’t won’t when you speak it, how is it going to work when you read it? This is a simple fix that can improve your work a thousand-fold. Dialogue needs to flow naturally, roll off the tongue...or roll like an errant meatball hi-jacked by a hamster.
Now, off to find that pesky rodent...I might just catch him red-handed (read: pawed) after handling the Italian sauced orb of his affections!
((Small print: I neither own a hamster nor a meatball.))
((Smaller print: Nor do I know where the hamster nor the meatball came from in reference to this post...it’s been a long day.))
((Even Smaller print: No hamsters were harmed in the writing of this blog post.))
((Even Smaller Small print: No meatballs were harmed in the writing of this blog post.))