Writing Dialogue That’s Natural

Talking just seems to come naturally–long conversations–no problem. There is the usual he said/she said argument about who talks the most, but I’ve heard men on the phone long enough for it to take root and grow (not that women don’t converse just as long–just that it seems more of a tie).

So what is it about writing dialogue that gets us typewriter-tied?

The problem seems to be one of making it flow naturally or come off as contrived. We’ve all read books in which the dialogue just isn’t believable–others where you might be a fly on the wall listening in to the Conversationconversation.

It was suggested that one of the ways to really get into writing dialogue is to go to a very busy place and politely eavesdrop (a shopping mall or Starbucks?). The suggestion was to take down some of the dialogue or create “prompts” to help you remember the conversation. Perhaps in my world, I’d have to take a recorder (the cell phone would do nicely), and just hit the record button. Who knows the tidbits you’d get if you weren’t caught and busted for being a weirdo.

We all have “self-talk” and usually have no problem with the running dialogue. I can carry on a real conversation and answer quite naturally when I’m on my walks with the dog. But to remember it and write it down later; again, just won’t happen. I’ve tried the cell phone thing and recorded dialogue thoughts, plot thoughts, and ideas to research and verify or clarify. Well, admittedly, the latter worked as, again, it would have been forgotten otherwise by the time I got home to pencil and paper or keyboard.

The nice thing about going to a very busy venue is that along with the bits of conversation you’ll catch the accompanying accents, facial expressions, and body language. Those are wonderful to help add real, engaging dialogue. The quiet groans, giggles, hand waving gestures and head shaking, head nodding, eyes closing. The expressions all go a long way in authenticating the dialogue.

There’s an art to painting the picture and creating that conversation. Add the nuances and you have completed the scene in the mind of the reader. It’s about more than just the words. It’s a stage and the characters, the actors. Set them free.

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