Writing Dialogue

Throughout this blog, I’ve touched upon several aspects of my writing process – from creating characters and developing narrative arcs to discussing influences and inspiration (and distractions). It has occurred to me that I have yet to expound on one of the most critical components to a story, regardless of genre or length.

Dialogue.

I’m rather an introverted person (as anyone who knows me can attest)  – if I’m ever among a crowd of people (and that’s a rare occasion in and of itself) I’m often the one standing off to the side listening to other people’s conversations and generally observing those around me – I don’t really like to talk too much and usually feel awkward in social settings.

[Brief disclaimer to those who do know me well – a huge exception to the aforementioned reticence to interact and converse with others is whenever I am at theatre-related occasions, whether it be waiting at the lobby or the stage door of a theater or waiting in line at a CD signing. Those are the times when I will strike up a conversation with whomever is around me – I’ve met a good deal of friends that way, discussing similar interests and shared experiences. ]

Anyway.

Writing dialogue has never been my strong suit, as I tend to be more comfortable describing locations and situations, and conveying inner monologues for my characters. I’m not so sure why this is the case, though it might stem from my introverted nature (I’m not a psychiatrist) and my reticence to speak out loud; I have little problem “conversing” via email or Facebook messaging, or (for that matter) blogging, which is somewhat akin to dialogue albeit written and not spoken, so it’s more like narration than actual conversation. Though this is not to say that I have not ever written any dialogue – after all, I have in my archives an unfinished novel (which is soon to be revised and inserted somewhere in the MASC Chronicles) and several short stories (both on paper and in Word documents) that contain some dialogue, as well as my current works in progress.

It’s just that much of the dialogue that I had written comes across (at least to me) as being highly melodramatic (and almost Victorian) and somewhat unbelievable [I “blame” my years of watching General Hospital for my apparent tendency to have my characters recite such melodramatic conversations, and some of my more outlandish plot ideas].

In an attempt to (sort of ) remedy this situation, I’ve decided to participate in a writing exercise posted in one of the Facebook writing groups, and write my entry using only dialogue. I’m not sure how this will turn out, but it’ll test my ability to write more plausible dialogue; also, as an added challenge to myself, I’m just going to write whatever comes to mind, without plotting out the narrative or the characters beforehand (though I have caught myself being “distracted” into casting some of my existing characters into this writing exercise).

This should be interesting – perhaps one of these days I’ll post an excerpt here, though (introverted as I am) I’m not quite at that stage yet.

One day.

Someday.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Writing Dialogue

  1. Now that WP is actually letting me COMMENT, I will be ‘catching up’ (and doing so in a non-angry manner).

    I think it’s really good to challenge oneself, especially with a sole purpose (improvement with things we feel we’re not good at/comfortable with) in mind to keep you focused. I’ve been very pleased with my own similar sort of challenges (though not the same challenge), but that’s probably mostly due to the fact that it only reinforced that I’m ‘better at what I’m good at’, if that makes sense.

    I do have a question though – is the dialogue you’re writing (with the more ‘formal’ speaking) fitting of the characters/setting?

    I wish you the best of luck with the exercise, and I hope you find yourself pleased with the stretching involved (end results, process, and all)!

    • I am making an attempt to ensure the dialogue fits the location, mindful to not include any modern vernacular, given the time period/location my stories are set, though in a way the slight melodramatic tone does fit (I just feel sometimes it’s dialed all the way to 11 and might come across as over-the-top.).

      I’ve just been more comfortable writing description and inner monologue as opposed to spoken dialogue. This new writing exercise, (thus far independent of my WIPs), is proving to be an interesting experience.

      Thanks much for your encouragement, I wish you the same.

      • I think sometimes 11 can be a good place to be, if it fits. And that’s not just for that specific thing, but for a lot of things. Of course, I could be totally biased about that . . . . . .

        Interesting is good, right?

        🙂

  2. Dialogue is hard. It’s difficult to try and figure out how to make a fake character sound real. This is especially a challenge when you have multiple characters speaking and they all need to sound different. It’s a fun challenge though. I tend to watch actors I see my characters most like and try to capture his or her voice as my character. I do that a lot with my Sherlock Holmes stories. Don’t know how much success I’ve had but it helps me stay rooted in my character. And when I struggle to hear how my character sounds, I just jump on YouTube. :-p

Leave a Reply to J. Lau Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.