Master of Dialogue


Master of Dialogue

by Adam Huddleston

“Master” might be a bit much, but I feel that one of the greats when it comes to writing dialogue in their work is Quentin Tarantino.  I know a lot of people are put off by the extreme violence and subject matter in his movies, when you sit and listen to his characters speak to each other, you see that he has a firm hold on realistic language.

For example, look at movies like “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs”.  The film characters are mostly all criminals, committing dangerous acts that none of us would ever do, but their speech is completely relatable.  They discuss mundane topics like cheeseburgers, tipping waitresses, and a hunger for pancakes.  This dialogue connects the movie watcher with the characters and brings them into the story.  

While some may feel that Tarantino’s dialogue borders on the vulgar, each line is appropriate for the situation and executed perfectly by the actor or actress.  If you have a few hours to spare, I highly recommend the aforementioned films for there plot and especially their dialogue.

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Silence is Golden


Outtakes 373

Silence is Golden

By Cait Collins

 

I do love dialogue, but sometimes silence is best.

Two guys loved the same girl.  They were the three Musketeers, always together, always laughing.  She sits alone on a marble bench looking at their pictures.  She traces the features, and pauses as if a memory stirs.  Her head falls back; she closes her eyes and allows the sun to warm her face.

Her thoughts go back to the last time she saw them. They were leaving for boot camp.  Their goofy grins faded when they boarded the bus.

A loon’s mournful song echoes in the coming darkness.  She shivers…

A tear slips down her cheek as she stares at the marble grave stones,

“I miss you both,” she whispers. “I love both of you.”

 

 

A LESSON FROM THE MOVIES


A LESSON FROM THE MOVIES

Lynnette Jalufka

 

Sometimes I think I should write screenplays instead of novels. Screenplays are mostly dialogue, and dialogue is my favorite part of writing. You can learn a lot about dialogue by watching movies: flow, tension, emotions. The main difference between it and a book is that the audience can see who’s speaking and their reactions, which help convey the emotion of the scene. In a book, you don’t have that luxury. You convey emotion through tags and action beats. And stories are all about emotion.

Here’s an exercise for you: take a piece of dialogue from a movie and write it as if it was in a book by adding tags and action beats. Write so that a person who hasn’t seen the movie can get the emotion of the scene.

Let’s Talk


Let’s Talk

By Nandy Ekle

 

“Hi. My name is Main Character.” He raised his hand in a wave.

“Hi, Main Character. My name is Nemesis.” He nodded toward Main Character.

Main Character smiled. “It’s good to meet you.”

“Thank you. It’s good to meet you too.”

Main Character looked past Nemesis’ shoulder and Nemesis looked down at the floor. The clock ticked an awkward moment.

Main Character jerked his face back to Nemesis’ face as a flash of thought passed through his mind. “We’re supposed to inspire writers to write a believable dialogue.”

A light snapped on in Nemesis’ eyes. “Oh. Do you mean, like, actually sounding like two people having a conversation instead of sounding like two sides of the same person?”

“Yes. That’s right.” Main Character smiled while his head moved up and down.

“I see.  How do you think a good writer does that?”

Shrugging his shoulders, Main Character said, “Well, I think they have to just almost actually hear two different people speaking and write what they say exactly the way it’s said.”

Nemesis’ eyes darken slightly. “Ya’ know, Mainy, I do b’lieve you jes’ hit da nail rat own its big ol’ head.”

“Yes. And that means the writer needs to know his characters very well.” He took a coupe of steps backward.

“Yore galdern rat ‘bout dat dar rule.” Nemesis took a couple of steps forward toward Main Character.

Main Character turned his head and looked over his shoulder for the door behind him, then he looked back at Nemesis. His brow was lined with worry. “So, do you have any advice to add to that?”

Nemesis stopped moving and lookd up into space as if an idea would appear like a light bulb. “Well . . . yeah. They prolly need to make shore dem readers know who’s tawkin’ when. ‘Cause, like us? We ain’t just standing still flappin’ our gums. We’re acchully doing’ sumpin’”

“That’s right,” Main Character said.

Nemesis grinned a dark toothy grin. Yeah.” He turned to look at the person reading their dialogue. “Got that, reader? Now.” He paused and leaned forward until his nose nearly touched the reader’s nose. The dark light came back to his eyes. “Go do it!”

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Dialogue Tags


Dialogue Tags

Natalie Bright

Dialogue is spoken communication between characters. The purpose of a tag line is to let your reader know which character is speaking.

Most commonly used dialogue tags:

Said

Asked

Yelled

Hollered

Whispered

As a reader, we hardly notice the tag lines. “He/she said” is boring, and our eyes are used to reading said. We want to know what’s between the quotation marks.

Seriously, can a person “screech” or “Sigh” or “acknowledge” words? Can you “laugh” a sentence? Instead use descriptive words to create motion or response in your characters. Over use of anything besides “said” can be annoying. Think of how you can use narrative in place of tag lines.

One of the best resources for an explanation of dialogue is the book WRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE AND FLASH FICTION by Harvey Stanbrough. I highly recommend this book as an addition to your writing reference library.

Here’s an example from Mr. Stanbrough’s book:

She approached him cautiously. “Come on now, Baby,” she cooed. “You don’t want that knife. What are you going to do with that?”

He swung the knife in a wild arc. “I just can’t stand it anymore!” he exclaimed. “I’ve had it?”

If you read the same passage above out loud omitting the tag lines, it reads the same. In fact, we might even say that the tag lines of cooed and exclaimed are somewhat annoying. You could add a he said or she said if you want, but the action and narrative helps us know who is talking. The imagery is still the same no matter what tag lines you use.

Happy writing and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

natalie

SAY WHAT?


SAY WHAT?

Lynnette Jalufka

 

Characters are supposed to sound different from each other, but if your readers have to reread the dialect to understand what’s being said, you’ve taken them out of the story. But how can you write a dialect and still make it readable?

One way is shown in Sharon Ewell Foster’s novel, Ain’t No River. In this example, Garvin, a female lawyer in Washington, D.C., is having a conversation with Miz Maizie, a janitor, in the ladies’ restroom:

“You let me know, now. I’ll call for some help.” The “I’ll” sounded more like “Iya” and the “help” sounded more like “hep.”

“No, Miz Maizie, I’m still above rim.”

“You know, Garvin, I heard of lots of little children—” Garvin heard chirren—”falling into them old-fashioned outhouses, and you ain’t too much bigger than they were.”

Foster does not spell out what the words sound like in the dialogue. Instead, she describes how certain words sound to Garvin. Otherwise, she uses word placement to convey Miz Maizie’s southern dialect, and this technique continues throughout the book. This way makes the dialogue easier to read while still maintaining its uniqueness.

The People Speak – Part 2


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The People Speak – Part 2

By Nandy Ekle

How many of you readers out there never talk to yourselves? You never have a running conversation in your head, never ask yourself questions, never tell yourself your opinion, never remind yourself of your to-do list? 

The inside of my head sometimes sounds like a throng of voices. I don’t mean, like, hearing voices telling me to do bad things, as in schizophrenia or psychosis. I mean it’s like the two sides of my brain talking to each other, so much so that I need to listen to music with lyrics while I work my day job, just to keep the creative side out of the analytical side’s business.

Our characters, who we want our readers to believe are real people, are exactly the same. They have inner thoughts the same as we do. And these inner thoughts can be very important to our story. It can tell us more about the character, it can move the story along, it can even be a fantastic vehicle for flashbacks and important back story. 

There are some types of story where inner dialogue is critical. I read a story once about a woman with a mental syndrome causing her problems. She desperately wanted to heal from that, so she took a trip in order to come to terms with this. The problem I had with the story was there was very little inner dialogue to show her healing, her metamorphosis. The author didn’t set the problem up very well as far as symptoms in the beginning, and suddenly, at the end, she was well. I didn’t feel like had made that emotional journey with her.

Another thing to remember when using inner dialogue is to keep your character’s voice, speech, personality, and view of the world intact. If your character has a secret side to them, that’s wonderful, but give us a clue to this secret in their outside layers. Then, with the inner dialogue, you can let it out flamboyantly. But always remember their view of the world.

Back to Liane Moriarty. In Big Little Lies, one of the main characters has this secret side to herself. She’s seems a little scatter-brained on the outside, a little, like, “whatever . . .” But through her inner dialogue, we learn she is guarding a terrible secret that she doesn’t know how to handle. For excellent examples of all kinds of dialogue, read Big Little Lies. 

Dialect


Dialect

by Adam Huddleston

The literary term this week is: dialect.  This word is simply defined as the pronunciation, grammar, and spelling of a particular people.  Dialect is one facet that separates groups of people from one another.  Using dialect effectively increases the level of characterization and leads to more enjoyment by the reader.  

Many authors have used regional dialects well.  The first author that comes to my mind is Mark Twain.  If you’ve ever read Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, you can almost feel Southern speech dripping off the page.  My favorite author, Stephen King, uses speech patterns and phrases often heard in the northern New England states.   

One word of advice: if you give a character a specific dialect, be cautious that it is one generally understood by your audience and not what you think it sounds like.  For example, some may believe that all Southerners use the term “ain’t” or drop the “g” off of the ending of words.  Many do, but don’t fall into the trap of stereotyping.

Hopefully, the proper use of dialect will flesh out your characters.  Happy writing!

Revealing Dialogue


Revealing Dialogue

Rory C. Keel

 

Dialogue is a way to reveal a character without a narrative description. As in real life, when a person opens their mouth and speaks, they show us what kind of person they really are. An effective dialogue will use words that portray the mind, heart, and personality of the characters that are speaking. In dialogue, the conversation will drive the story forward and reveal to the reader motive, concern, and reasoning of the story characters.