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mattguize
Posted: Monday, July 08, 2013 7:28:29 AM

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Location: Bedford, United Kingdom
Hi,

I've been pondering the art of conversation; or, to be more specific, how to construct conversation within literature without it sounding cheesy. it's something I'm not, truthfully, really that good at, to the point where I've found myself actively avoided scripting dialogue for fear of failing to do the story and the characters justice.

So yeah, I just wondered if any one has any hints / suggestions / methods that they've found useful in writing conversations?

Matt
clum
Posted: Monday, July 08, 2013 8:00:51 AM

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The key to this, for me, is to know my characters really well. If I know intimate details of a character's life—even more than I would ever put down on the page—then I know what they would and wouldn't say, how they would react to certain situations, how they speak, etc.

To create natural, free-flowing dialogue, it has to come from real characters. Don't allow it to become mechanical, and don't use it just to break up the narrative. Use it to reveal aspects of the character, or the relationship between two or more characters. Use it to put the reader in the moment.

Make it realistic; make it meaningful. If you get stuck, think to yourself, "What would I say in that situation, and how would I say it?" and work from there, adapting to the character you have created.

She Just Wants To Be

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Guest
Posted: Monday, July 08, 2013 8:48:09 AM

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Saying what you want your characters to say aloud can help. It'll let you get a feel of the character and, as Clum said, get to know them. Saying things aloud also allows you to judge tone, inflection and even simply whether the character would say such a thing. Another good thing is to just have conversations in real life, listen to them and translate them on to paper, or screen. As I've said before, writing is like an exercise in observation.
Metilda
Posted: Monday, July 08, 2013 11:04:04 AM

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Location: United States
Practice. Then read it. Make comments of your own. Ask others their opinion.

In a scene with a lot of talking. Not sex related. Give yourself a random purpose with the use of a writing prompt.

Like: Susan decided to attend Phoenix University for her degree in physical science. Arnold, her boyfriend, runs a small music store. The scene is how she breaks the news.

And go. . .

mattguize
Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 5:06:32 AM

Rank: Active Ink Slinger

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Posts: 15
Location: Bedford, United Kingdom
Thank you! Some good advice here. Will try to put it to good use!
Lisa
Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 1:37:49 PM

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Location: Victoria, Australia
mattguize wrote:
So yeah, I just wondered if any one has any hints / suggestions / methods that they've found useful in writing conversations?


In addition to the advice already given, you can read your conversation aloud (just the actual dialogue, no dialogue tags or actions) as you're writing the scene to see whether it sounds natural and flows as a real conversation would. Use contractions such as "don't", "shouldn't" etc rather than "do not" and "should not". Try to write as people actually speak rather than using more formal words.

Another idea for giving it a natural feel is to have your characters doing something while they're talking. If they're having coffee together, show them pausing to stir in sugar, take a sip etc. Give them actions to break up the dialogue and keep the scene moving. Actions also help show what the character is feeling, so it doesn't all need to be spoken aloud.

Good luck with your writing! :)
principessa
Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 2:16:03 PM

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Location: Canada
I agree with Lisa. Use contractions in dialogue and avoid them in your narrative. Also you should review the resource for formatting and punctuating dialogue and follow the examples there. Here is the link:

http://www.lushstories.com/forum/yaf_postst27829_Formatting-Dialogue.aspx
Guest
Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 2:59:30 PM

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Joined: 12/1/2006
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mattguize wrote:
Hi,

I've been pondering the art of conversation; or, to be more specific, how to construct conversation within literature without it sounding cheesy. it's something I'm not, truthfully, really that good at, to the point where I've found myself actively avoided scripting dialogue for fear of failing to do the story and the characters justice.

So yeah, I just wondered if any one has any hints / suggestions / methods that they've found useful in writing conversations? Matt


An exercise an English Lit. instructor encouraged is to observe people as they are engaged in conversation. Note how body language accentuates their verbal cues and then try to write it out. Also, great advise on knowing your characters. That is fundamental. Tarnished Knight, as well as others here, are really good at this. Once you've mastered this art form, an exciting and animated story can be told through dialogue. It takes practice, practice, practice but in the end it is well worth the exercise and fundamental to supreme story telling.
Guest
Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 4:56:00 PM

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In fictional conversations, there is often tension created by what is said and what is left unsaid, what is implied and what is direct, what is "natural" and concise. Dialogue should reflect the character, their motivations, their "machinations," cram as much information as you can in short dialogues while keeping it "natural" to the scene and story. It sounds complex until you do it long enough to be instinctual. It's been said that good dialogue moves the plot, while good narrative moves the story, in which case the plot is what is happening (exterior) and the story is what is happening to the characters (interior).
DanielleX
Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013 3:17:46 AM

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Try to limit dialogue tags, like 'he said' or 'said Joe' etc.

Try to make it obvious who's saying what without having to resort to tags. When you do use tags add some adverbs or qualify the dialogue in some way.

"I think so," said Pat, tentatively.

"It was all your fault!" exclaimed Joe, harshly.

When you've got three or more characters in a piece of dialogue, avoiding tags becomes more tricky. Again, if you know the character and the narrative has been developed adequately, even here tags might be dispensed with. Practise makes perfect.




seeker4
Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013 2:51:59 PM

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principessa wrote:
Use contractions in dialogue and avoid them in your narrative.


As always, ignore this where appropriate. It's a rule of thumb rather than a law of writing. A common form (in both literature and life) is for rather uptight, stuffy sorts to not use contractions.

Example: "I do not recall inviting you to this party, young man," the professor intoned, glowering over his glasses.

Using a contraction wouldn't convey the character of the professor in quite the same way.

DanielleX wrote:
Try to limit dialogue tags, like 'he said' or 'said Joe' etc.


I wrestle with tags a lot. They do serve a purpose but can definitely mess with flow if overused.

One of my favorite, and most viewed, stories. Bill and his daughter-in-law Becky relieve their sexual frustration with a steamy summer fling.

Frustration and Relief

The April Stories:

April's Secret - A college student learns a sexy secret from his girlfriend's past

The Pastor's Secret - A lonely minister seeks solace from an escort
RumpleForeskin
Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013 8:56:55 PM

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I respectfully disagree with DanielX about adverbial tags...as do Stephen King and Elmore Leonard. However, I do agree about keeping tags to the absolute minimum needed to avoid confusing readers. This is particularly true in scenes with only two characters.
--BTW, Elmore Leonard is regarded by many writer-types as a master of dialogue. You might check out one of his movels, such as, "Get Shorty" to study how he handles conversation.

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Guest
Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013 10:31:41 PM

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DanielleX wrote:
Try to limit dialogue tags, like 'he said' or 'said Joe' etc.

Try to make it obvious who's saying what without having to resort to tags. When you do use tags add some adverbs or qualify the dialogue in some way.

"I think so," said Pat, tentatively...


I agree here. If it's two people talking and the dialog is fast, sometimes you can just drop the tags altogether.
Example:

Joe reached up and violently slapped Paul in the face.

Paul reeled from the impact. (this is another thing I do. I describe the mood or action of the character who's about to speak; or who just spoke.) "What the hell, man?"

Joe was apologetic but still angry. "Well - I told you to get me some more Fiddle Faddle and there's none in the bag."

"Okay, but did you really have to slap me?"

"Sorry, man. I was just really craving Fiddle Faddle inside my stomach."

They hugged it out; and then played Uno.

It gets complicated when there's a large group of people. Sometimes I'll use the action method like this:

Paul turned to Joe and sighed, "Did you really have to invite all these people over to my house?"

Kelly poked her head out from behind Kevin's fat ass, and pulled a box of Fiddle Faddle out of her bag. "We didn't mean to storm in on you. We heard you were out so we just thought, 'Fiddle Faddle for all!'"

I'm not saying, don't use tags. I'm just giving you examples of different options.
mattguize
Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 1:30:20 PM

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Location: Bedford, United Kingdom
Some really interesting points, especially in regards to the use of tags. There is something about not wanting to overburden the text with too much descriptive narrative, a category I suspect these adverbial tags fall into. (On a side note, must use the word "adverbial" more in conversation.) On the other hand, too little, and there's the risk that you may not be able to convey into words how it's sounding in your head.

Hmmm. Much to ponder.

"And just what is a Fiddle Faddle?" he wondered.
GentWithHandcuffs
Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 12:39:18 AM

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Location: Lincoln Park, United States
A good way to construct a good convo is to actually make it seem realistic. Be sure to include emotion where it is critical. It helps the reader feel it better rather than it being all stale and robotic

"I ‘accidentally’ wrapped my hand over my pitched tent. “Trying to cover it up” I lied to myself. Only to be rewarded by chills rocketing down my spine. Fuck! I needed to cum now! "
"Wasted Time" by

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Metilda
Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 10:43:47 AM

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Joined: 3/10/2013
Posts: 1,238
Location: United States
My opinion on 'said'

I use it as seldom as possible. Why? Because the word pairing 'he said' and 'she said' or 'said Billy' and 'said Susan' are the basics of dialogue tags taught to children in school. Too many which are too close together come across as being immature. Action or voice-inflection should be relied on more when it comes to the writings of adults.

If an author uses them too frequently, and doesn't interject anything else, it diminishes the writing for me and it might get on my nerves to the point at which I stop reading.

Example is this - from a young-reader's book called House of the Scorpion - this is overuse of simple dialogue tags. All in all, considering the category, it's a good story, but it's obviously geared toward younger readers with it's simplicity:

Quote:
Maria wasn't at all shy about coming up to the window. "Hey, boy!" she yelled, rapping the glass with her fist. "What's your name? Do you want to play?"

With one blow, she stole Matt's carefully prepared speech He stared at her, unable to think of another opening.

"Well, is it yes or no?" Maria turned toward the others. "Make him unlock the door."

"That's up to him," said Steven.

Matt wanted to say he didn't have the key, but he was unable to get the words out.

"At least he isn't hiding today," remarked Emilia.

"If you can't unlock the door, open the window," Maria said.

Matt tried, knowing it wouldn't work. Celia had nailed the window shut. He threw up his hands.

"Ye understands what we say," said Steven.

"Hey, boy! If you don't do something quick, we're going away," Maria shouted.



She yelled, said Steven, remarked Emilia, Maria said, said Steven, Maria shouted.

Within this short scene - taking up 1/2 of a page in the book - "said" is used three times.

If I was to rewrite this I would rely more on action tags - perhaps feeding in character descriptions - and maybe I would use 'said' once.

- Reading how others apply and use dialogue tags can teach you how to use it, and will help you figure out what you prefer and don't prefer.

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