Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Discovering Dialogue

The best advice I ever received about dialogue was from my first creative writing professor. He said that you have to hear dialogue, really listen to the rhythms and cadences of speech to effectively write it.

What's the best way to do that? Go somewhere you can listen to real conversations.  Listen carefully. Listen to different types of exchanges. Parent, child interactions. Conversations between teenagers. Do they finish their sentences or do they truncate them?

    Once you get the feel of multiple speeds and rhythms then it is time to start writing them. Sit or stand close enough that you can write down what words they use. How often do they repeat themselves? Do they take turns, going back and forth or is it less predictable?There are words that have developed from texting that have made their way into everyday conversation. Do you know what they are and what they mean?

By doing this often enough, writing conversation will become much easier.You'll start hearing your characters conversations in your head and effectively write it so it sounds authentic. I have pages of conversation that I have recorded.  I've learned that it is really rare for a sentence to be more than 6-7 words. Usually, if someone goes over that the other person will inevitably interrupt. Language evolves and changes quickly and if we want to stay abreast of how people talk we need to always be listening.

Have you ever eavesdropped on a conversation? What did you learn? Has it helped improve dialogue in your writing? How?


  1. Wow! This is extremely helpful. I love the idea of doing this dialogue research when writing. Thank you!

  2. This is a great idea. I listen to conversations all the time, and for much the same purpose, but actually taking notes so I don't forget is a fabulous concept. I'll definitely put this into practice. Thanks for the tip!

  3. perfect illustration of live dialogues.

    your words are valid and eloquent,
    the images you choose are beautiful...

    love your D take.
    keep it up.

  4. Great info! And the other thing that is helpful is to read your manuscript (particularly the dialogue) aloud.

    Nice to meet you, Pam!

  5. I'm a non-fiction writer by trade, but who knows, I could be reformed someday. Either way the insights are useful. I'm glad to have found your blog -- not yet 50. :-)

  6. Pam,
    Thank you so much for visiting my place but also your kind and heart felt comments. Yes, going the to "Dad" place is difficult for me but one I've truly had to reconcile for my sanity as well as my husband and son. Luckily, my husband is a great father to our son and even his rough edges have been smoothed by the desire to be a better father.
    That relationship is so vital to our being and yeah, even at its worst, it has taught me a great deal.
    About your 'd' word...dialogue; you know this is very difficult for me becuase I'm not a 'talker' I'm a listener (and an eavesdropper) and a writer so this particular part is always a challenge to me!
    great post and I'll be back!


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