I’ve always been told that I do dialogue really well. It’s relatable and easy to follow. I was never taught how to do dialogue, ever. In person I’m actually a pretty bad conversationalist. My words get jumbled and my friends always seem to tell me to take a breath and just slow down (I also talk really fast, but I blame Gilmore Girls for that!) The only thing I can really come to terms with is that when I started to write, I didn’t know how to do actions well (I still struggle with this just as an fyi) but I told entire stories with dialogue. I wonder if, when I go back home, I can dig up the dolphin journal that my very first story in it. It’s FULL of dialogue and nothing else! So I’ve had lots of practice with it, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert.
I’m currently finally getting around to reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and I’m just in awe at this book. Everything in it makes me pump my fist in the air and shout ‘YES! THAT!’ Seriously, if you haven’t read it yet and you’re a writer, you need to. I’m going to review it when I’m done and hopefully that’ll coax more people to read it too! I’m getting a little off track here. In the book Lamott says that good dialogue should just flow, it shouldn’t jolt and shouldn’t break down the flow of things. And I fully believe this to be true.
I find that dialogue that isn’t true is hard to understand. It’s jolty and effort to read. The only advice that I can give you to make it flow, is to go out and listen. Not just half listen, but really listen. Do you sit back when you’re with a couple of friends and they chattering away and you can hear the emphasis on words, the way their tone changes or get stuck on actual sentences? (Maybe you don’t, I do though, sorry guys!) When you listen you can actually get a feel for how people talk. Now apply it to your writing.
It’s not as difficult as it sounds. It’s essentially really easy. The hardest part? Getting the reader to be able to differentiate between characters. I had a lecturer point this out to me and it made me blink and actually really work on trying to get them to sound different on paper, because in my head they sounded perfect different and I could have picked then, but no one lives inside me head. No one is able to get that link so I had to pay better attention to it. When I handed up the draft, I got feedback that I did indeed fix the problem, which was amazing to do.
I have a question though, does anyone have the issue where they get sucked into making entire scenes just full of dialogue and nothing more? I’m sure there are people out there that do it, help make me feel like crazy! Leave me a comment.