Writer's group numero cinco
I don't know why number five. I bet you'd be really confused if I said 'setenta y cinco', wouldn't you?
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L. W. Perry

What do you do to achieve realistic dialogue? What sorts of dialouge do you have problems with?

Do you use a lot of it? Barely any?

How important is dialogue to a story?

Just discuss and add tips. :)

9/2/2010 #1

I say my dialogue to myself out loud and imagine myself in the different viewpoints involved in the dialogue (speaker, listener, observer, etc.). It sounds kind of cliche I guess but it works for me (at least I think it does...haha). The dialogue that I have the most trouble with, though, is dialogue in dramatic situations and also monologue. I can get "everyday" kinds of dialogue but if the situation is dramatic I tend to step up the dialogue or monologue and make it too flowery. I've been working on it, though, and I think it's improving.

I suppose I'd say I use a lot of dialogue, but I decide when/where to use it just by where it feels natural in the story. I think it's really important to a story because it's one of the simplest and most effective ways to give the reader insight into either all the characters' thoughts or, if it's a first-person narrative story, the thoughts of the other characters that aren't narrating.

9/3/2010 #2
Thetis of White Isle

Dialogue...huh. Well. I'm not sure. If I just had to pen dialogue, or pen narration, I think it'd be a lot easier for me. But fitting narration into dialogue is probably the main problem for me.

But we should focus mainly on dialogue as that is the point of the thread. I took a linguistics class last semester which helped out a lot in cementing how different actual dialogue is when compared to prose's dialogue. If you really want to get natural-sounding dialogue in prose, it's actually a fallacy. Because real dialogue is very difficult to read in print. So it's actually a bit of a disconnect here for me to hear the phrase "natural-sounding dialogue in prose" because well, nobody would want to read it since it's filled with a lot of pauses, er's, ah's, and ahem's (and those sorts of things), and it's actually not that interesting to read.

All this to say, you're probably after dialogue that's interesting to read, and not clumsy in execution. Take it from someone that had to record and transcribe several pages of actual conversation. Not fun. People just aren't as articulate or interesting when they actually speak than when they write. (Unless they're reading off a teleprompter.)

At least, that's what I go after in dialogue in my prose. The main difficulty I have with dialogue alone right now is awkward phrasing that doesn't translate in any kind of writing, let alone something that has to be read as what someone has said. I think it's because I hang around bilingual people a lot, and that muddles up my already-flimsy grasp on grammar. Kitten brought up some excellent points already about what to think of when typing dialogue-heavy scenes. Ever have to write those scenes that have more than three, four people talking? Those are a nightmare, and I dread those. I'd especially like some suggestions on those.

9/4/2010 #3
L. W. Perry

I actually talk a lot like my prose style. Not like my stories themselves, but, y'know, like this. But I've taken Drama and impromptu speaking courses so....

I have a bunch of habits when it comes to dialogue. Sometimes, especially for Starling, I'll just kind of sit there and talk to myself about what will happen in the scene and what everyone says will be blunt like me. Then, I'll translate that into something a lot more appropriate. So "Nobody freaking asked you!" will become a stern "I don't believe that your name was mentioned here...."

I used to record myself a lot to get stutters and pauses in there. I'd write up generally what I want to say and then say it, record myself, then play it back. Usually I'll expand a lot too because I can't shut up. I haven't done it in a while though. I kinda' need to.

9/6/2010 #4
Thetis of White Isle

There are rules to spoken dialogue, just as there are in written prose, even if they're very much invisible and subconscious in comparison to the latter. For one thing, our brains are not wired to recall as much as information as you would think during conversation. Thus, there's much more repetition in spoken conversation, because when we read something, if we don't recall what 'he' refers to in a paragraph, we can always just check what we were reading last. This, of course, is not possible in spoken conversation, so more nouns being repeated, unless you want to get a lot of questions asking what you're referring to.

The reason that doesn't happen (usually) is because a fundamental rule of the old idea versus the new idea in sentence structure, where old ideas are usually cited before the new, except during special circumstances where the the new idea is put first.

Why go through this? That is to say, if you're going to say that you talk similarly to your prose style, I'm going to have to say that I don't believe it. I don't mean to offend, but try recording yourself in a spontaneous, regular conversation, and no matter how much training one has had, there's definitely going to be a difference than reading something you typed up. Maybe there won't be as many hesitations, but you're definitely going to be more relaxed, more lax on the grammar, maybe even talking too quick to quite get everything in the right order. So, basically, conversations in prose =\= real-life conversations.

The drama and impromptu speaking courses sound very useful, though. And if you really want to get a feel for what people talk like, try asking and recording a bunch of different kinds of people. Yeah, you're going to need their permission. Otherwise it's illegal. ^^;

Now, I shall stop here, before I sneeze my nose off. Allergies stink.

9/6/2010 #5
L. W. Perry

I said similarly, not exactly. I'll stutter a bit and make pauses, but I don't repeat myself and say "uh, uh, uh" constantly. I do wave my arms around like a maniac though.

But, in prose, one gets a bit more leeway with the way people speak. In fiction, things, no matter how realistic or gritty the story is, are always romanticized. That's inescapable and people should embrace that.

Ugh, allergies suck. Hope you feel better. :)

9/6/2010 #6
Thetis of White Isle

I thought I said similarly as well, but maybe not. Was just pointing out that speech and prose have fundamental differences, is all.

Besides, it's be boring and tedious to sit through the different stutters and such. But, on the other hand, you don't want to have everybody speaking exactly the same. Any thoughts on people talking with accents in prose? (Emphasized for truth: everybody speaks with an accent. No exceptions.) Also, adult versus child speech, or any other disparities like educational differences (can of worms! Can of worms!) XP

9/12/2010 #7
L. W. Perry

Sometimes an accent can be a good addition, sometimes it's just annoying. In the Harry Potter books, the way Hagrid spoke was extremely annoying. I kept having to say it outloud to understand it. That was a bit much.

9/13/2010 #8

For me, how much dialogue there is in a story depends on the story itself. Some stories call for more description, and some need more dialogue.

Personally, I didn't have a problem with Hagrid's accent. And sometimes, the story just works better when you write out the accent as opposed to when you just say that there is one. I'm actually not sure where Harry Potter stands on that issue, but even so.

9/14/2010 #9
Thetis of White Isle

I think my characters all talk the same, which is a huge problem. Trying to get Ferris in De Anima to speak a little more formally, for...uh, plot reasons. I guess I think of her as kind of template for a lot of ideals I'm developing. If scharlie has gotten around to completing the video game Mystic Ark (of which De Anima novelizes) she would know what I'm talking about. Then again, it took me around...oh, thirty game hours to finish Mystic Ark. I'm playing through it again to script the lines and basically, get a good grip on the plot.

I'm currently writing about pirates and armies, and you know how they have a certain kind of vocabulary for that? I tried learning about it online, and I'm not sure if I incorporated enough of it be authentic. Then again, this is fantasy, so there are certain...dissimilarities. (i.e. pirates in another world do not necessarily have to be just like the pirates in our world, but just how different would they be?) I don't know.

But back to dialogue. Nobody has even said so much an, "Arr, matey," in my story. *looks over fanfic* I wonder if my dialogue is working.

9/30/2010 #10
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