Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login


Dialogue is the speech between characters.  It is when the narrator (you) stops telling the story and the characters speak instead.

Here's some pointers regarding dialogue writing:

REAL WORLD
Never write dialogue like real-life speech.  Why?  Because if you listen to real-life speech it is littered with umms and ahhs and errs.  Anyone who has ever sat through a meeting or an assembly listening to someone droning on umming and ahhing will know just how frustrating it is.  The last thing you want is to inflict that on your reader.

Real life also has moments where you completely forget what you're saying or get side tracked and run off on a tangent or get interrupted.  Now all these things can be added to dialogue but in small amounts.  We all know someone in life who constantly interrupts us when we talk, they can't wait for your part of the conversation to end so they talk over you.  Fine, have a character who does this but DON'T make them a main character because I guarantee your readers would get sick of reading fractured dialogue.

If you want a true version of real-life speech, when you have a conservation with friends, use a dictaphone and tape if for an hour.  Then play it back, listen for the errs and ahhs, the long drawn out pauses and the interruptions.  


SPEECHES
Unless your character is ACTUALLY making a speech, try and avoid them.  What do I mean?  Long drawn out dialogue where one character just talks and talks, often explaining some poignant moment or situation.  Fine, sometimes a plot needs to be re-iterated, maybe a character is telling a new character what has happened to him/her.  Keep it brief or just tell bits and use filler for the rest.

Example: Jake stuttered, struggling to put into words the tragedy that had befallen the group.  Kate listened intently, nodding or squeezing his hand when he reached moments of painful memories.  
   "There was no where for us to go?" Jake murmured.  "We just had to take it, to ignore everything they did to us.  But when they beat Simon, we knew we had to leave."  Jake turned red-rimmed eyes towards her, looking at Kate's face for the first time.  "He never made it out."

Here we see Jake is telling a tale, we don't need all of it (of course you could lengthen it) though remember the narration should cover some of the tale.  Then we throw in some dialogue so we have an idea about what the tale is about and this gets across the emotion Jake is feeling.

If Jake had rattled on for three pages about everything they had been through, it is likely that much of the emotion would have been lost.  Dialogue can help, but build a picture slowly with narrations, with description and mood.


IDENTIFY THE SPEAKER
If you have a lot of back and forth dialogue (often happens in arguments) you need to make sure the reader is clear on who is speaking.  As a personal preference, I avoid the constant "he said, she said" as I find it clunky.  They being said the renowned Terry Pratchett often uses he said she said and it never stops the flow of his work...but then again, his work is awesome so it could just be that his writing it so good, you barely notice the he said she said.

Anyway, I digress... throw in names or motions to explain who is speaking.

Example:

"This is all your fault!" Sally snapped, throwing the glass into the fireplace.  
Tom shielded his face from the glass fragments.  "Why my fault?"
   "You always do this, you never think you just rush in!"
   Her temper was fraying and Tom felt himself edging unconsciously towards the door.  "It's not just me, we both made mistakes."

By adding description and motion (things in the room such as the glass, the fireplace, the door and motion throwing, edging etc) you can build a picture, create a mood and break up dialogue.  From this you have a fairly good idea who is speaking.  You don't need to identify each line.  Especially if there is a constant back and forth.  

If there are several people talking, definitely add detail and motion or mention names.  Dialogue can be tricky, get friends and family or DA people to read your work – ask them to state if there is ambiguity regarding who is speaking.


VOICES
As your write you will start to find that every character (at least main characters) will have their own voice.  They will speak a certain way, sound a certain way maybe even have specific traits when speaking from stutters to shouting to maybe just repeating questions rather than giving answers.  

When you write the dialogue make sure you can "hear" their voice.  Is the dialogue something they would say?  If your have a strong male character, maybe he swears, maybe his voice is rough and he speaks straight.  Another character, younger perhaps might mumble, might say five sentences to get out information or a question that could have been asked in 6 words.

Think about your characters' personalities.  Do they like to give orders?  Do they question everything?  Do they struggle to understand or take a long time to explain something?  Do they use slang or curse words?  Are they in a class that would speak properly (no dropped letters).  Are they uneducated where they would mispronounce words or use the wrong word?

Note: If you create a character who uses the wrong words / mispronounces words due to a lack of education or being taught wrong, make sure you mention it somewhere.  Or make it clear from some other description so that the reader is aware this is the character's error and not your error.


ACCENTS
The jury's out on writing accents.  My thoughts, avoid them.  If you want to mention your character has a strong accent, fine – this will allow the reader to adjust the "voice in their head" to compensate.  After all the reader will have already given all your characters voices.  If you have an accent, tell the reader early enough.

To write it can be difficult and also insulting.  If you ever hear someone mimicking (badly) an accent it can often be some nasty clique.  We are all aware of the nasty "leprechaun" accent given to Irish people (as someone who lives with an Irish person, I cringe when people I know try and "do the accent").  

People's accents change from area to area.  The British accent in many American shows and movies always comes across as quite posh...as if we all wear bowler hats and drink tea with the queen.  The most amusing I ever saw was in Independence Day, where it flashed to British Soldiers.  I don't even think the Royal Princes (who have served in the armed forces) have that level of poshness to their accent.  It gave a very warped view of the British Forces ;)

Anyway, state the accent and just move on – let the reader do the rest.  I've read books where the words have been butchered in order to "force" an accent.  Not only can it be insulting, but the reader can get sick of trying to work out what you've written.  

As mentioned though, this is my personal thoughts on the matter.


WORDS
I have mentioned this before in other tutorials, so just a quick reminder, make sure you use the right words for the right characters and the right settings.  Don't use curse words or slang in a medieval fantasy (unless it's curse words that sound right... "like devil blast you, you bastard").  

"Fuck You" doesn't really work in a medieval fantasy, but calling someone a bastard, after all that's a correct term is more acceptable.


SAYING WHAT'S NEEDED
Dialogue is important and needs to move the story along.  So add it when it's needed, have characters interact or even talk to themselves, the trees whatever you want.  But make sure it's relevant.

Having a page of dialogue between two characters over what they want to order at the local tavern is boring, unless it somehow moves the story on or contributes to the development of a character(s)


EMOTION
Remember to add emotion.  If a character is sad, happy, angry, scared, lonely, apathetic etc this should come across with descriptions and actions, however dialogue can help.

Example
"How many more?" she asked.  The man merely shrugged, remained straight backed barely looking at her.  "Tell me!" Lia screamed.  "Tell me how many more will die today!"

By breaking up the dialogue you can create a mood.  The first question here seems innocent enough.  The man's reaction creates a feeling.  Suddenly the character Lia demands, screaming then asks another question.  Two lines, three pieces of dialogue and a small amount of description can give an image.

So what did you think when you read that example?  What image was conjured up?  Did you hear her scream?  Did you hear the panic or the fear or the anger in her voice?  Without more you cannot be sure what she was feeling, but there is emotion there and as a writer I could take it in a number of ways.



OUT LOUD
It is a good idea to read any dialogue out loud once it's written.  My way is to write a few pages and then read through, reading the dialogue out.  You find your voice changes, not to match the characters exactly, but their tone, their temperament can come through when you read.  This will also help you to hear if there are any clunky dialogue parts.  If you're not sure, think about re-writing it, saying it differently – try a few ways until the dialogue feels better, flows more smoothly.
This may be added to later. Just some ideas on dialogue. Please note all my tutorials are listed on my main page (under gallery and favourites) in a section called Dark Tutorials. There is also a list there of up and coming tutorials.

If you have any suggestions for new writing tutorials, feel free to drop me a comment. I can't guarantee I'll write it, but if it's something I feel I could write about I will add it to the list



NOTICE TO ALL WRITERS
My writing blog is now up and running, it will be filled with more tutorials, hints, tips, tricks and general writer ramblings as well as features and competitions. Please visit at [link]
Add a Comment:
 
:iconforcedlactationlover:
Forcedlactationlover Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I hadn't seen this before, but it contains all kinds of good ideas. Even as an experienced writer myself, it's good to be
re-exposed to these thoughts. This goes in my tutorial set.
Reply
:iconastrikos:
Astrikos Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2013   General Artist
Featured your helpful deviation here. :love:
Reply
:iconlexiiie:
Lexiiie Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Student General Artist
This is really helpful! I don't write much, but I have ideas for writing a comic/manga, so this is gonna be really useful for me to keep in mind. Thanks for writing this. C:
Reply
:iconkristenaxley411:
KristenAxley411 Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
SO true about the accents. Half the time I couldn't tell WHAT the hell Hagrid was saying in HP, and Redwall was impossible.
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
lol yea, accents are a nightmare they rarely translate well.
Reply
:iconkristenaxley411:
KristenAxley411 Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Step One: State that they have an accent.
Step Two: Just let it go...
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2012
lol that's a perfect tutorial right there! :)
Reply
:iconkristenaxley411:
KristenAxley411 Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:D I know, right? And if people don't read that person's accent, I'm just fine with it.




As long as those same people don't message me and ask me why the British guy said "starkers" or "blimey". Then I will be all AYFKM.
Reply
:iconderpshitz:
derpshitz Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014  Student General Artist
AYFKM? :?
Reply
:iconjessiejordan:
JessieJordan Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011  Student General Artist
I hope I'm not frustrating you with all my comments. I really dont comment that often but I really, really like your tutorials. I know what you mean by the adding accents to the dialogue part. Fluer Delacore's accent was very annoying in the Harry Potter books. I was very grateful she didn't have many lines.
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2011
lol I am not frutrated by your comments, I really appreciate that you are taking time out to leave comments. I have been overwhelmed by people's responses to my writing tutorials and since writing is my first true passion it means a great deal to me.

I am so pleased you have enjoyed my tutorials so much and thanks for the many favs! ^-^
Reply
:iconjessiejordan:
JessieJordan Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2011  Student General Artist
yep! I would suggest your tutorials to anyone! and I have suggested them to people.
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2011
Aww thanks hun, that's really sweet of you ^_^
Reply
:iconjessiejordan:
JessieJordan Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2011  Student General Artist
^-^
Reply
:iconmegaheroes16:
MegaHeroes16 Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Showing emotion through actions is always difficult for me in writing. Showing happiness or hyperactivity isn't a big problem, but showing depression and insecurity is.
Reply
:iconjessiejordan:
JessieJordan Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011  Student General Artist
Theres several good tutorials on body language that might help you. Heres one and you can also look up body language tutorials here on da and you'll find several that might help.
[link] This one is actually a drawing tutorial. But It actually may help you. It immencely helped me because I'm writing/drawing a manga/comic.
Heres some tips of my own. Atmosphere can be affected highly on what kinds of metaphore and similie you use, as well as what kind of adjectives you use.

ex: if you are portraying an arguement between two characters, use adjectives that imply war and battle.

Suzy shot daggers at ed, staring him down. "Why must you be so Idiotic!"
Ed hunched his shoulders to shield himself from the glare. "I didn't do anything ok?"

This is badly written because I just sort of threw it together. See in this example I used the words "daggers" and "shield" both are words that imply battle.
If you are trying to portray depression, you use a similar method. Think of things that go along with depression. ie: rain, dark clouds, broken glass, ect.
Hope this helps! :D
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2011
The best way is to study people, or study yourself. How do YOU act when depressed, how do you feel, how do you re-act. What about others you know? Do they lash out at those close to them, do they pull in on themselves, stop making eye contact, show little interest or regard for others, does their appetite change, do they stop dressing well or keeping their hygiene in order?

In any area you struggle, ask yourself questions? It allows you to think in different directions?

Speak to people - ask them questions! We don't all feel or know the same things.

For example : If you don't have children you don't know the feelings of being a mother/father. Then again if you have children you might not remember so clearly the independence and freedom you get from not having them.

So, in the above situations you would ask people who had children, what it felt like to know they were having children, how do they feel now, is there anything they were afraid of? And vice versa if you don't have children.

You can gain insight from learning from people, learning from yourself. Say you want to write fear, think back to the most scared moment - how did you feel,how did you react, how did you think? Ask your friends about their experiences.

Writing needs research, it needs experience and knowledge. You can gain that from the vast amount of people you see every day.

If you sat in a cafe and watched people come and go, sit, eat, smoke, talk, read, argue, cry.... you will see a variety of emotion through their actions. So then you just describe what you see. People watching is one of the best methods in my eyes for helping with this.
Reply
:iconmariel0503:
Mariel0503 Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011
Thank you very much for this new tutorial, it's a great help as always =)

The thing about dialogue is that it can't be totally separated from the rest of the work. Sure there are plays, but even here you will find stage directions. Of course they do not tell everything and a lot is still left to the actors, but still. When somebody talks, their body moves and they keep on living, so long speeches without breaks are totally unreallistic. Even more when there are two or more people talking, they will behave one way or another, depending on who is around. This is why the he/she say is just a waste. You can imply so much more by using whispers, shouts, yells, cries, sighs, laughs, chuckles, groans, grunts and so on. Even if your characters doesn't do anything, it is still worth mentionning if he keeps it up for too long because humans tend to move, even slightly, to avoid the cramps and stiffness. If you want your reader to be drawn into the story, make sure he can see as well as he hears the characters's voices. The things that happen besides the words being said are most of the time even more interesting than the raw dialogue. It also helps developping your characters and their relationships, hinting if they are being ironical or if they seemed so but sincerey thought what they blurted for example. It will hint the relationships between your different characters. A glance can tell a thousand times more than an entire speech.
Talking about speeches and monologues, you can focus on the person who is speaking because a lot of persons are listening. If they are trying to be convincing, they will move a lot, lift their limbs, have different facial expressions, make gestures, maybe walk back and forth? The people listenning to the speaker, what are they doing? Do they believe in what he says or in him? Are they on his side or not? What do they seem to think? Are they eager to hear the rest or do they seem bored/not interested/indifferent? Are they even interrupting the speaker, applauding, whistling, yelling insults at him/her? Can it affect the farther witnesses's hearing?
If you are writing from one character's perspective, what are they doing? "Normal" individuals will not be able to keep focusing very long, so their thoughts will drift away even if they are really interested. What are they missing and what did they hear? Are they agreeing or not? You can even make them think in reaction to the speech. Is your character trying to do something else? It can be as simple as crossing their arms or touching an important thing they are holding or wearing. One of their mate will maybe react at some point and whisper a comment in their ear? And the reaction to this comment?
Is he an assassin that focuses on strategical points, only keeping up with the speech to make sure his target is not aware of his presence?

The opposite flaw exists, altrough it is less common: Make sure your reader is not forced to go up an entire paragraph to find out what the question was because they have been drawn into an unecessary long description of something really interesting but better suited elsewhere, when the character will think about the scene later for example.
In short, the reader should be able to follow what is happening, this is why there is a time for everything. The story should have a flow that draws the reader and persuade them to keep following at the author's speed. However, most readers are not really flexible and will prefer stories whose flow is close to their own. When you think about the general speeds of the most well-known books through time, you will find that they have sped up a lot. There are exceptions, of course, since a good storyteller will be able to convince more people into keeping on reading.

Just some thoughts that came out as I was reading this and remembering the ton of shitty stuff I have read, full of nothing but dialogues. Each time I see that coming my attention really drops since it is missing something. Or is it just me? I really like to hint and let the reader imagine the rest of the story... Leave some very equivocal things.
It doesn't really matches with the dialogues tutorial either, sorry...
Reply
:iconcrescentdelusion:
CrescentDelusion Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
these are still helpful as woah, fuuu;;;; thanksssss <3 -saves-
Reply
:icondarkdelusion:
DarkDelusion Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2011
Thanks, glad you've found them useful :) Do you write alot?
Reply
:iconcrescentdelusion:
CrescentDelusion Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
:D I really do!

And, I have little time to really write, mostly trying improve my rping skills lately ^^; I wouldn't be able to use your notes if it weren't for such a nice and literate rp forum, so yes :D ahaha, but I'm planning to write something soon ;)
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×

:icondarkdelusion: More from DarkDelusion


Featured in Collections

How to Write a Book by JeantineHobbit

Writing Tutorials by katweston

Writing Guides by SoloWing-02


More from DeviantArt



Details

Submitted on
April 5, 2011
File Size
9.8 KB
Link
Thumb

Stats

Views
4,224 (1 today)
Favourites
223 (who?)
Comments
21
×