Dialogue <ul><li>Writing dialogue probably is the most essential skill you need. Since most big scenes, and many minor ones, rely on dialogue, you must be able to write it well. Writing dialogue should be easy for most of us-after all, we spend hours per day talking and listening to others talk. In fact, the narrative aspects of writing fiction should be more difficult, because how much time do we spend listening to narrative? Not much. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Many writers, however, claim that dialogue is the easiest aspect of writing fiction. James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity said “Dialogue is almost too easy. For me. So much so that it makes me suspicious of it, so I have to be careful with it… There are important issues and points of subtlety about people, about human behavior, that I want to make in writing, and it’s easy to evade these-or do them superficially, do them halfway-by simply writing good dialogue.” </li></ul>
<ul><li>Two points regarding this quote: </li></ul><ul><li>1. Dialogue does not accomplish everything, so don’t despair if you don’t trust yours. Gabriel Garcia Marquez depends much more on narrative than dialogue. </li></ul><ul><li>2. The second point regarding Jones’ quote: Dialogue is easy. It’s what you’ve been doing almost every day, most of your life. </li></ul>
Dialogue as Conversation <ul><li>Dialogue is basically conversation. Your characters talk to each other. They should sound like real people. This could mean that all you need to do is transcribe people’s conversation. Unfortunately, it’s not all that simple-or rather, fortunately, it’s not that complicated to write dialogue. </li></ul>
Real conversation may sound like this: <ul><li>“ Er, Jim, have you heard the latest thing, on, what’s his name, you know, er, I mean the guy who’s so much like in the news-” </li></ul><ul><li>This coffee sucks. Well, I’ve been too busy lately, all the job applications and all-” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Shit, he’s a pop singer, oh jeez, why can’t I remember his name, like, he’s real famous, er, you know, I mean?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Uhuh” </li></ul><ul><li>Pause. A cough. “He’s hiding, you know who I mean, er, he’s got an- damn it!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sure, it’s easy for those guys, they’re all millionaires. Well, where’s the waitress?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Uhunh.” </li></ul>
<ul><li>Even in a direct transcription resembling this one, you can’t indicate where both characters speak at the same time, where vowels drag, consonants double and so on. Moreover, in real speech, you get a person’s melody of voice, see his body language, and you might suffer all the hesitations and indirectness and irrelevancies much better than when you read the transcript in print. You can’t reproduce real speech. You can approximate it now and then, but your dialogue should be quicker and more direct than real speech. </li></ul>
Elizabeth Bowen says: <ul><li>“ Dialogue should convey a sense of spontaneity but eliminate the repetitiveness of real talk.” </li></ul><ul><li>It may be effective to use “or something’s,” “I mean’s” and “sort of’s” for the sense of realism and spontaneity, especially where hesitations simulate no only the sound of real speech, but psychologically indicative moments. But use these fillers sparingly. </li></ul>
Exercise <ul><li>Reproduce a quarrel you’ve had. Don’t edit for diversity of insults, subtlety of word choice, dignity of the scene. Just give it to us raw. </li></ul><ul><li>Objective: A quarrel is a paradigm of dynamic dialogue. Conflicting motives drive word choices. Even if there’s no quarrel in your dialogue, use a conflict to propel the converation. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Exchange dialogue with partner. </li></ul><ul><li>Check: Is it clear what the quarrel is about? It may be about two issues, one on the surface, another beneath it, but at least let the theme of the surface quarrel be clear. If it’s too confusing, it won’t work. Anger probably more than any other emotion helps the mind simplify problems into sharp outlines. </li></ul>
Exercise #2 <ul><li>1. Write a one-page dialogue scene between </li></ul><ul><li>a demented psychiatrist and a client. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Write a one-page dialogue scene between </li></ul><ul><li>An evangelist and a philosophical homeless person </li></ul>
Exercise #3 <ul><li>Write probing dialogue between a thirty year-old penguin and its zoo keeper. </li></ul><ul><li>Please discuss the mood of the penguin, zoo keeper, and why they are having this discussion. </li></ul>
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