Sunday, March 17, 2013

He Said, She Said

Dialogue is the foundation of expressing a character's thoughts and opinions. It can show the ways that they interact with other characters, or even give the reader a sense of where the character comes from based on their grammar. Each character's dialogue is unique and differs from the others characters. Idealy... their speech should be so unique to them, that a "he said" or "she said" is not necessary.

But how can you do this? Seems a bit... hard, right? Well, think about the last REALLY good book you read. Maybe one of the characters had a bad childhood experience and is hesitant to speak about themselves too personally. This could be key in that character's dialogue. This character will be a dodger, someone who only talks about other people and things that won't require them to give anything about themselves away. This makes your character different from another character who feels free to talk about say... their dog or their grandma or what food they like.

What about a character who comes from the slums (exaggerating here). This character will have poor grammar and limited vocabulary. They won't use words that you might find a college professor using. On the contrary, a character who comes from a very educated background will be better able to express themselves using good grammar and vast vocabulary. (sterotypical example) Soemone from texas will use words like, "ya'll" and someone from the from West Viginia will say the word "wash" as "warsh." Vocabulary and grammar are very simple ways to make them distinct.

But THINK about it. A character who has anger or lying issues will also speak differently. An angry character will jump to comclusion and accuse others regulary. They might also be the King or Queen of interjections (exclamation points). A lying character will say things that don't always make sense with the other character's opinions and statements. On the other hand, if say... a dog... is speaking, the dog will discuss things like food and being petted, toys or rawhide bones. A teenaged girl will prefer to talk about her boyfriend, who offended her the other day, or whether or not she likes the shirt she's wearing.

So here's something to try...

  1. write out a conversation in which two or more characters are having an argument, but don't use "He said" or "she said" to tell them apart. No beats either (short action phrases, aka "Connor wiped the sweat from his forehead.") Just dialogue. 
  2. Read the conversation out loud and listen to see if you can hear your characters' distinct voices. 
  3. This done, now add some "he saids" and "she saids" 
  4. Read it again.
  5. Now you can add some "color" to the conversation: add some beats now. Make your characters DO things. Throw chairs against the walls if they need to. 
  6. read it out loud again. I hope you're proud of the dialogue you've just created =) 

Remember, no two people are alike, even twins. When you create dialogue, we don't want a dry comments about the weather unless the character really is a dry person. Make your characters colorful and unique.

Happy writing =)

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