Now, turns out I have a few writing skills that come easier to me than others. One of these is writing dialogue, which is super important when it comes to writing YA or Children’s fiction. Wait, scrap that, to say I am a ‘natural’ would be misleading. I can tell you exactly how writing dialogue has become something unconscious and natural.
I hear voices
Not the creepy kind, which is a bit of a shame, but I can hear the voices of people I know. When I am writing dialogue I think of a person I know and how they speak, because THAT is how I want my character to talk. Because I listen to the way people speak I get this kind of other-worldly-feeling when something doesn’t seem natural. If a character talks, but it doesn’t sound like them, my toes curl.
So many times, it’s the way dialogue is structured that doesn’t make it seem realistic. If you find a character speaking for more than two lines without interruption or saying more than one thought all at once – SPLIT IT. Have another character interject in a way that promotes the next line. People interact, their words are sparked by each other’s.
Now, this is something I learned from acting: people never let someone completely finish. They always talk over the end of their sentence/thought. This is hard to get across in writing, but when you do it, you’ll notice a huge difference. It also means when you have a pause from one character in the dialogue, it SHOWS! It gives weight to their silence.
Treading the boards
I used to do a lot of acting and studying of plays. But I’m not one for the limelight, so I shied away. But it’s been invaluable. Yes, this is uber important. With plays, you ONLY have the dialogue to interpret the character, to understand their motivations. In studying HOW a person says something by reading it out loud and WHAT effect this had on an audience, enabled me to write dialogue loaded with showing, rather than telling. Throw in the odd ‘cue’ to the character, and you’re away.
Write a script
Lastly, try your hand at writing a script. There’s no room for telling. You have only cues and dialogue to rely upon getting things across to the audience. I wrote a comedy script before I ever began my hand at writing a novel, and that was probably the best practice I could ever have had.
So, tell me chaps and chapesses, what helps you write natural dialogue?