Writing Dialogue: Tips & Rule Breaking

October 19, 2014 by No Comments

Writing Dialogue: Tips & Rule Breaking

It has been a while since we’ve published any writing advice on this website so let’s correct that now with a post about Writing Dialogue: Tips & Rule Breaking.

Anyone who has written prose knows that dialogue plays a huge part in your story telling. Today we are going to look at tips from three website starting with the great piece of advice above from Paul Feig – the director of the very funny Bridemaids. There is more advice below the break!

The quote at the top of the page is from a much longer quote we found on Black Board Forum about writing scripts. Below the quote is five questions to think about when you are doing your own writing. They are:

  1. Do you read your script out loud? Do you just mumble it or do you “perform” the lines?
  2. Do you give your audience enough credit?
  3. Are you writing an executive-friendly script? Have you given thought to what that means for your dialogue?
  4. Do you listen to (or eavesdrop on) real people to study and internalize how they speak?
  5. Do you rewrite dialogue for your actors?

Break The Rules

Jeffrey Whitney over at The Write Practice agrees with Paul Feig about how important it is to make your dialogue sound convincing in his article Want to Write Better Dialogue? Break The Rules. Whitney believes you do this by breaking the following two rules:

  • Grammatical Correct Sentence Structure
  • Don’t use clichés

Whitney points out that in real life we don’t use grammatical correct sentences when we speak and we use clichés as if they are going out of fashion! To achieve convincing dialogue then Whitney recommends you listen to people take, whether on the radio or in your local café, and write down what you hear.

I would recommend you check out the whole of Want to Write Better Dialogue? Break The Rules over at The Write Practice to see the detail behind Whitney’s suggestions.

Novels Are Movie Scripts

To conclude today’s post with a reminder from Roz Morris that Novels Aren’t Movie Scripts. In her article on Nail Your Novel, she talks about the differences between writing movie scripts and prose. While her article is worth reading we are going to highlight her final four points:

  • Banter and quips – In a movie, atmospheric natter and irrelevant quips are a great way to create a sense of a mood or character. On the page, this quickly looks aimless.
  • Internal reactions – The screenplay-tuned writer often doesn’t use internal dialogue, because an actor would add the expressions. Also, most films show a story from a third-person point of view. But in prose you can show what a character thinks and feels.
  • Silence, pauses and non-verbals – Remember we see dialogue as well as hear it – don’t forget to include the characters’ reactions and non-verbal responses in your scene.
  • Prose is your background music – Take charge of the scene’s environment. Create atmosphere through your description of the setting.

How do you ensure your dialogue sounds realistic? Tell us below!

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