Advanced search


(18 Posts)
Kai1977 Tue 12-Jul-16 21:10:40

I hate writing dialogue! If I could, I'd just write stories about mime artists who go to a monastry just so I never had to write it. Mine just comes out stilted and dull.

Those of you who just seem to have such knack for it - any tips/books/exercises welcome!

SueGeneris Tue 12-Jul-16 21:16:31

Are you writing prose?

As an exercise you could try writing your current project as a play/film script ie more or less entirely in dialogue. Just as an exercise to get the dialogue flowing.

SueGeneris Tue 12-Jul-16 21:20:55

You could try writing internal monologues for your characters. Their thoughts as they walk through Marks and Spencers or Sainsbury's or something. Do one for each of your characters to help develop their voice.

Not an expert btw! Did an MA in Creative Writing many years ago and focused on scriptwriting.

Kai1977 Tue 12-Jul-16 21:32:54

Thanks for the tips. Yes I am writing prose, will give those a try.

TopiaryBun Tue 12-Jul-16 21:41:26

I'm not a natural dialogue writer either, but it's got easier over time. What helps me is thinking about the different inner script each character is obeying in the scene and which determines what they say - they're never operating off the exact same script.

RebelRogue Tue 12-Jul-16 21:48:14

Not an expert but i'd say,keep in mind the characters personality,if at all possible relate it to someone in real life,and how would they say what you are trying to express. They are not your words anymore,they are your character's words. You can add descriptions and actions too to emphasise reaction,and put feelings in their words. Kinda like

"Uhm... Hello" she said uncomfortably,while avoiding his eyes.
"H..h..hello" he stuttered,not expecting to see her there.
"Hello!" She said excitedly,her joyous energy filling up the whole room.


Sorry if i'm talking i said ..not an expert grin

HarrietVane99 Tue 12-Jul-16 22:02:52

I like writing dialogue!

What purpose is your dialogue serving, eg is it to show character, move the plot along, bit of both?

Do you 'hear' your characters' voices in your head?
Are they distinctive enough that you could write a page of dialogue without 'Bob said' 'Jane said' and it still be obvious who was speaking?

How are their personalities reflected in their speech, for example an erudite, scholarly type might use long words and long sentences, whereas a more action oriented character might speak in shorter, snappier sentences. Someone who's angry might speak in short, sharp sentences too. People of different generations will use different slang. There might also be regional differences in the way your characters speak. (But please don't attempt to write accents phonetically.)

Try reading a few pages of dialogue in any novel and see how the author handles it.

ImperialBlether Tue 12-Jul-16 22:38:18

This website has scripts for a lot of famous films.

Try reading scripts as you would a book. I read scripts where I'm very familiar with the film. If you read a lot of dialogue, you'll find writing dialogue easier.

RebelRogue, you gave some examples:

"Uhm... Hello" she said uncomfortably,while avoiding his eyes.
"H..h..hello" he stuttered,not expecting to see her there.
"Hello!" She said excitedly,her joyous energy filling up the whole room

The thing is that when you look at what they're saying, you then repeat it in the description. For instance, it's clear the middle one is stuttering; you've shown that in H..h..hello. It's clear "Hello!" is said by someone who's excited, because of the exclamation mark. I'd suggest using adverbs very sparingly, otherwise you'll end up with a Barbara Cartland type novel, eg:

"How dare you?" he said angrily.
"Who are you talking to?" she asked bitterly.
"You shouldn't have done that," he said resentfully.

And best (this one was from one of her novels I read when I was a teenager):

"I love you," he said lovingly.

RebelRogue Tue 12-Jul-16 22:44:06

Oops sorry imperial..i did say i was not an expert.

Love the last example gringringringrin

ImperialBlether Tue 12-Jul-16 22:57:40

I do, too! My mum used to get dozens of romances from the library for an elderly friend and I used to devour them! Barbara Cartland was a step too far, though!

Just seen she wrote 400 books between the age of 77 and 97. She should be an inspiration to us all!

Kai1977 Tue 12-Jul-16 23:15:39

Some grear tips here thank you! I should say that I get the basic premise that the characters need to sound different and to show character through their dialogue and I am OK at doing that. It's just that it's hard to make the dialogue interesting and funny (when that's needed). I'll definitely try these things out though and the point about reading dialogue (like reading anything as a writer) is likely to help.

I have actually posted on the Books section about suggestions for books with great novels so will try reading some of those along with scripts too.

TopiaryBun Wed 13-Jul-16 08:50:25

I don't think you should be thinking about needing to make the dialogue interesting and funny as though it's a separate thing to the rest of a scene - it should be contributing to whatever the goal of the scene along with everything else.

Do you even need dialogue in the scene? If the characters are very emotionally close, or sulking, or frightened, would a wordless scene work better?

Avoid too much exposition - obviously you sometimes need dialogue to convey information the characters and readers don't know, but you can't have two people stop and swap lengthy info-dumping accounts of the recent political history of Planet Yerk/the Tudor Court in the middle of a battle scene!

And bear in mind that people seldom respond directly to what someone has just said, and it's both more realistic and more interesting if, in response to 'So, did you kill her?', the other character starts talking about how his mother died when he was ten, or how a friend of his once admitted to a murder when drunk but didn't remember the next morning.

If you take out the 'he said'/'she said' from the dialogue, is it still obvious from the content and diction who's saying what?

And stick to he said/she said, avoiding the Cartland-y ''Sh!' she whispered breathily' ''I hate you!' he shouted angrily' etc. grin

HarrietVane99 Wed 13-Jul-16 11:25:05

I don't think you should be thinking about needing to make the dialogue interesting and funny as though it's a separate thing to the rest of a scene - it should be contributing to whatever the goal of the scene along with everything else.

Yes, very much this. The humour arises out of the characters and the situations they're put in. Dad's Army is a very good example. Capt. Mainwaring isn't funny in himself, it's his vanity, self importance, snobbery that give rise to the humour.

As to making it interesting, if it moves the plot along, readers should want to keep reading:

'What the hell are you doing here?' (No need to add 'he shouted angrily'.)
'Don't you speak to me like that. I'm here because John texted me and asked me to meet him here.'
'He can't have done. John's dead.'

ImperialBlether Wed 13-Jul-16 12:38:14

I was watching a Father Ted last night, Harriet, where the script was like that!

Kai1977 Thu 14-Jul-16 22:32:40

Some great tips here, thank you so much. Now I just need to get writing (and reading).

CocktailQueen Thu 14-Jul-16 22:41:57

This might help - - I love Emma Darwin's writing blog

Kai1977 Thu 14-Jul-16 23:25:46

Oh yes I love her blog too but hadn't seen this one!

Madhairday Mon 18-Jul-16 18:12:23

This is a good little guide for a fast read on this subject:


Love the Barbara Cartland over-adverbing!!

Hate it when you read that kind of info-dump in dialogue. Like 'Hey, John, how are you?' 'Well, I am fine because you are coming with me to my second-cousin-three-times-removed's wedding, and then you are going to take me to the hotel, and then you have said you will make sure I have a naice room with room-service. Remember?'

Avoid info-dump and signposting in dialogue - it has to work as it does in RL - and I second everything said about getting into the character of the person speaking, too, so your characters don't sound like dull versions of the same person...their dialogue needs to mark them out.

Not always easy!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now