Following on from our discussion last week on voice, tonight our Writing A Novel students will be discussing dialogue.
How hard can dialogue be? you cry. We all know what talking sounds like! We all speak words to each other! Every day!
Well, actually, it can be a bit tricky to get right. The key to good dialogue in fiction, a reliable source informed us the other day, is to strike the balance between being true to life, and being Not Boring.
With that in mind, here are two exercises to help:
- Choosing the correct vocabulary for each character is essential when bringing dialogue to life. Think carefully about each person’s background and lifestyle, the person they are and the person they want us to think they are. Consider who they’re talking to, too – do they speak in a different way when in conversation with their boss, than, say, a friend from home?
As an example, here are a load of words which all basically mean ‘great’. Make a list of all of the characters in your novel, and, for each, choose the word(s) – you can add others if necessary – they’d be most likely to use in conversation. This should help get you thinking about the intricacies of each character’s speech, and how you can make them work harder for you.
- Often the most important part of dialogue is the things that are left unsaid; the information hidden in between the lines. There can be real power in such exchanges, especially if the reader knows more than the characters. Adding such layers to your dialogue can also really help with that Not Boring bit, too.
Give it a go: write a short scene of dialogue (500-750 words) between two of your characters, where one or both of them are hiding something from the other.
Next week: Story vs Plot