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Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic
"Everybody talks first draft."

Speech in fiction is fictional: too good to be true.

People in fiction don't speak like we do. In Real Life, we encounter:

  • Repetition.
  • Stu-stut-stuttering, slllurrring, lithping, or mumbrblnote .
  • Infecting yourself, sorry, no, correcting yourself.
  • Whatsitcalled, um... disfluencies, you know, placeholders while you think.
  • And, like, being all, like, incorrigible with their use of "like."
  • Some sentence with in it bad grammar.
  • Stupid people talking like they're god-damned angry, you stupid@#$%razzafrazza*mumblegrumble*...
  • Going off on tangents which aren't relevant to the plot. Like platypi. Or falafels. (This is heard quite frequently in fiction thanks to Rule of Funny, but in Real Life it's unlikely that listeners would just let the tangents slide).
  • Making private references or inside jokes that casual listeners would never understand. Isn't that right, Reginald?
  • People getting interrupted hal-
  • Awkward silences and spaces where people....note .
  • Repetition.
  • Verbal Tics, desu.
  • Sneezing, coughing and *cough* *cough*, ahem, and so on.
  • Just letting sentences kinda...
  • Pauses or, y'know, interjections - right? - to make sure that the person understands. Get it?
  • Saying the wrong word by accident, and hoping nobody else involved in the constipation will notice.
  • Being unable to choose from bemongst two words before the sentence comes out and blixing them.
  • Oh, and sentence fragments. Obviously.
  • Mispronounication and neologisms (to describe unwordiness).
  • Uptalking? As if people were pronouncing every sentence as if it were a question? Except the last.
  • Foreigners that use patterns of speech of their native tongue simply because they didn't grew speaking English. More subtle than the Poirot Speak.
  • Disjointed syntax and backpedaling. For example, making a Long List of things, trailing off, starting to move on to the next topic, and then remembering one or two more things for the list and mentioning them, such as "We need eggs, milk, bread....basic, everyday things, you know....cold cuts, cheese, that kind of thing."
  • Impossibly long sentences where the speaker drones on and on but never stops to begin a new sentence so they just keep tossing in conjunctions like "and," "but," and "so" and in that way turn what should be a paragraph into a single sentence. (And, unlike in fiction, people who speak this way may also pause at regular intervals, drawing the never-ending sentence out even more.)
  • Repetition.

In fiction, characters inevitably come out with well-formed sentences. They may have a poetic flavor filled with William Shakespeare-like similes and luminous golden metaphors that most people in real life aren't clever enough to come up with on the spot or even at all. They never stumble over their words or say the wrong thing except for deliberate comedic effect. Even "realistic" dialogue is relatively free of errors and padding. It's almost as if it was written by a professional. (It really was.)

This trope is an Acceptable Break from Reality; real dialogue can be unreadable. Journalists know that an interview subject can be made to look stupid by simply repeating their speech, word-for-word.note  We enjoy the fruits of scriptwriting and acting more when they are free to be polished. Part of the reason is to make speech come across the way it's heard rather than the way it is; humans are well-adapted to interpret speech, and as a result what we experience is an interpretation of speech rather than a recording of it. Also falls under The Law of Conservation of Detail - because the time it takes for a character to correct themselves could be used for more dialogue.

Unfortunately, can lead people to assume Hesitation Equals Dishonesty, never mind that hesitation is one of the most common things in realistic speech and can originate from many sources other than dishonesty (someone being drunk or high, absolutely terrified, wanting to make sure they are telling the truth) or from dishonesty unrelated to the issue at hand (e.g. someone lying that they weren't doing drugs in hopes of avoiding a drug charge doesn't mean they're lying when they say they didn't commit a robbery across town).

At times, characters go beyond fiction-speak and break out in a spontaneous eloquent monologue at length, especially at moments of high emotion and plot importance, such as Holding the Floor. These monologues do happen in Real Life, but they are rare. In educated circles (i.e. the middle classes), these were a lot more common before the twentieth century, when rhetoric was a staple of education and people listened to (and studied, if they were literate) speeches for entertainment.

Some literary work has an ambiance that's simply incompatible with natural speech; for example, Fairy Tales.

Exceptions to this trope can come from works produced through improvisation, either live or as part of the writing process, and tend to appear a lot in indy films. On other occasions, stumbling or inarticulate speech will be used deliberately to suggest a character is dishonest or distracted, or may be used to make the character seem Adorkable. Aversions are often examples of Narrative Filigree. Averting this trope seems to be a Base Breaker: either the dialogue sounding natural helps set the feel of the film and makes it feel more homely and, well, natural, or instead, it becomes difficult to understand what characters are actually saying and thus, ruining the experience of the film; so, basically it's the scripting equivalent of Shaky Cam.

See Also: Buffy Speak, Mamet Speak, Funetik Aksent.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

Spontaneous Eloquent Monologue (Character Filibuster)

    Film 
  • In And Out finished on a good example of the form.
  • Good Will Hunting had several, as well as a rare case where the actor in question (Robin Williams) actually ad libs part of one monologue, much to the amusement of the rest of the cast and crew, resulting in Enforced Method Acting. The ones from Will, at least, were somewhat believable, as he's supposed to be just that smart—and they were still peppered with slang and cussin' ("Why shouldn't I work for the NSA?").
  • One of the criticisms of Gettysburg and especially Gods and Generals is that despite realistic and well-done battle scenes, even the most interesting and otherwise historically accurate characters would lapse into very long-winded monologues and soliloquies.
  • The Dark Knight Saga is peppered with these. It's particularly odd when Michael Caine's Alfred, who speaks with a Cockney accent and is given to British slang and idioms, spontaneously breaks into one of these.
  • The movies of Kevin Smith get away with this because while the spontaneous eloquent monologues can be long and a little too on-the-nose, compressing geeky conversations from hours to minutes, said monologues are Sophisticated as Hell.
  • The Aristocrats is a documentary about an improvised, disgusting shaggy dog joke apparently told by comedians to each other as a way to show off how well they perform these monologues.
  • Memorably parodied in Billy Madison, in which Billy is asked to give one of these describing how a work of literature reflects the changes the Industrial Revolution had on the modern novel as part of the climactic general knowledge quiz. He elects to compare the Industrial Revolution to a children's story called "The Puppy Who Lost His Way", and the scene cuts to the ending of the seemingly inspirational monologue he gives on the subject, after which everyone cheers (for the school football team which Billy threw in a Shout-Out to in the last line of his speech). Then Billy turns to the moderating headmaster to find out how he did, and this is the response:
    Headmaster: [Completely deadpan] Mr. Madison, what you've just said... is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
    Billy: ...okay, a simple "wrong" would have done just fine.
  • This is why in the movie version of Being There (1979) Chance the Gardener speaks in the tone, manner, etc. that he does. Peter Sellers realized that since Chance grew up with television as his only window to the outside world, his way of speaking would have to be based on how people on TV speak. His subsequent calm eloquence has the side effect of making otherwise intelligent, cultured, powerful people think he is one of them, rather than the mentally challenged fool he actually is - even when he bluntly tells another character he is completely illiterate.
  • A Few Good Men anyone? Aaron Sorkin is the patron saint of this trope.
  • Before Aaron Sorkin, there was Paddy Chayefsky. The characters of Network are virtually superhuman in their eloquence. Taken Up to Eleven with Ned Beatty's legendary "The World is a Business" speech.

    Literature 
  • The Dune books by Frank Herbert are populated with highly intelligent and intensely educated characters, products of various schools of human talent. Conversation between two or more such characters inevitably entails great attention to minutiae and nuance, sometimes resorting to exotic languages more suited to such subtleties. Monologuing isn't exactly infrequent. Special mention goes to Bijaz, a dwarf of uncanny charisma and sharp intellect, easily dismissed by most but secretly a Tleilaxu master, whose speech largely consists of word games with hidden meanings, crafted in real time. All in all, Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • P. G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler, which make for good reading, but can sound forced when acted out — hence the frequent parody of the Private Eye Monologue of Chandler. Despite appearing in a well-received television adaptation of Wodehouse's work, the actor Hugh Laurie has gone on record saying that Wodehouse is essentially unfilmable, for this very reason.
  • The Great Gatsby (novel) is a good example and works well.
  • The poem Scots Wha Hae by Robert Burns purports to be the words of Robert the Bruce to his troops before the battle that would win Scotland's independence. Great poem. No way any general could come up with it on the spur of the moment. It's different enough from any normal speech that the Terrans use it as a post-hypnotic Berserk Button for their first batch of troops in The Forever War.
  • The Brothers Karamazov. Dmitri can spout poetry and orate like the best of 'em when half-drunk, and seemingly only while half-drunk.
  • Eve in Paradise Lost, despite being repeatedly said to be a lot less smart than the other characters - well, of course! She's pretty! She's a woman! And the source of original sin! - still speaks in the same way as they do, ie, suspiciously like a seventeenth-century epic poem.
  • Fritz Leiber's The Big Time contains a sustained example (it begins "Woe to Spider! Woe to Cretan! Heavy is the news I bring you. Bear it bravely, like strong women."). The occasional swoops from one sort of vocabulary to another are found to be funny by some readers, but in full context they fit the character and her background too exactly.
  • Atlas Shrugged. Big time. In fact, pretty much everything Ayn Rand ever wrote. As one critic put it "her characters don't speak, they orate".
  • The entire Sword of Truth series (but especially the latter books) are chock full of multi page philosophical monologues by the heroes and villains
  • Various works of Greek and Latin literature, particularly the epics. Figures might declare a lengthy speech in the middle of a battle, or spend entire books telling their story and even reciting the speeches other characters had given.
    • ...and what's worse, saying all these things in a highly restrictive poetic meter!
    • Subverted in Virgil's Aeneid. The more upset Aeneas gets while telling his story, the less his speech follows proper Latin grammar rules. This both shows Virgil's extraordinary wordcraft and frustrates the living crap out of students who have translated it.
  • Assorted myths and legends from other nations, also. Whether it's one of Chretien de Troyes's Arthurian romances, or the Shah Nameh, or a tale from The Arabian Nights, nobody speaks in a naturalistic manner.
  • Shirley Jackson travels both these roads. See The Sundial:
    "The statistics scratch at your eyes," Essex said. "When I was twenty, and could not see time at all, the chances of my dying of heart disease were one in a hundred and twelve. When I was twenty-five and deluded for the first time by a misguided passion, the chances of my dying of cancer were one in seventy-eight. When I was thirty, and the days and hours began to close in, the chances of my dying in an accident were one in fifty-three. Now I am thirty-two years old, and the path getting narrower all the time, and the chances of my dying of anything at all are one in one."
  • Eduardo Mendoza's unnamed main character from multiple books is mentally challenged, and mentally ill. Yet he has a diction comparable to any poet, language professor, or professional writer.
  • Pick any two characters from the Enderís Game series. Any two at all, be they adults or children. They will instantly have a scathing battle of wits, no matter what. Partly justified in that most of the characters are either Battle School veterans, parents/relatives of said Battle School veterans, or government officials, but still rather jarring when two random people will start talking with each other and instantly engage in repartee.
  • The Honor Harrington series tends to get worse and worse with this as time goes on. It's not really noticeable in the military parts, but when those same people are supposed to be sitting around just having a relaxed chat, it can seem very stiff. Especially if they're using large words people generally don't use conversationally in real life. Other characters of David Weber's in other books tend to talk less like an essay, by contrast. Have an excerpt from "War of Honor".
    "First," the Secretary of War said after everyone was seated, "let me apologize for the somewhat unusual circumstances of this conference. I assure you all that I'm not trying to be melodramatic, and that I don't think I'm allowing my megalomania or paranoia to get the better of me. On the other hand," his smile was thin, but it carried an edge of genuine humor, "I could be wrong about that."
    "Well, Tom," Tourville said with the answering lazy grin permitted to the Republican Navy's third ranking flag officer, "I seem to remember an old saying. Something about sometimes even paranoiacs having real enemies. Of course, I can't speak to the megalomania question."
    "How unwontedly tactful of you," Theisman murmured, and all his junior admirals chuckled.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The West Wing is peppered with spontaneous eloquent monologues mixed with seeming breaks into realistic diction. In fact it's such a staple of Aaron Sorkin-produced shows that it's called Sorkinese.
    • It also contains purposeful aversions of Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic — characters sometimes stop and start over, fail to find the right words, or fall back on generalities ("Don't be the guy who comes in here with half a thing!"). This is even lampshaded on occasion — e.g., Toby ordering everyone he's talking to to be quiet while he thinks of the right word. These moments of eloquence failure are probably there to make the eloquence overload elsewhere easier to accept. However savvy viewers can recognise the cadence of artfully constructed stumbles. note  Another bit of unusual realism in Sorkin's writing is having characters not hear each other the first time and ask "What?" so that a line has to be repeated. Other Sorkinese staples are characters interrupting each other and transferring one conversation or phrase among several characters throughout the course of an episode.
    • Some justification lies in the training some career politicians and lawyers receive in oratory, though this is not as common as it was. Oratory is the art of the Spontaneous Eloquent Monologue note . Toby actually describes several tools of rhetoric as he is using them as part of a monologue. However some of the contexts in which the characters come out with Spontaneous Eloquent Monologues can still strain credibility; even trained lawyers and politicians don't always spontaneously burst into lengthy oratory monologues at the drop of a hat in situations where they're not otherwise prepared to do so (such as an informal conversation between friends). At other times, even Toby's eloquence fails him. "You want to bring down the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing?" This is the mash-up central to Sorkinese: one part Spontaneous Eloquent Monologue and one part "I have to see a guy about a thing."
  • Nearly every character in Babylon 5 has a habit of executing long spontaneous monologues with no mistakes or inaccurate word choices even when speaking in a non-native language. J. Michael Straczynski defended his characters' eloquence by stating that trained eloquence and articulacy had become fashionably popular again in Earth culture at the time of the series. (It helps somewhat that many of the characters are diplomats by trade.)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Jean-Luc Picard. It ain't called the Patrick Stewart Speech for nuthin'.
    • Conversely, William Shatner's famous... tendency to speak with... pauses is an attempt by the actor to give the impression that his character is making it up as he goes rather than reciting memorized lines.
  • Gilmore Girls: All characters have the ability to spout off impossibly long speeches at impossibly fast speeds without mumbling or messing up any words.
  • In Deadwood characters frequently lapse into soliloquies.
  • Averted unintentionally in Dad's Army. When performing scenes with long speeches, Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring) would often stutter and fluff his lines, and The BBC's tight recording schedules often didn't allow for retakes. Instead, the writers simply made his verbal gaffes a part of his character. A further Running Gag, albeit a more planned one, involved Corporal Jones going off on some of these — however, being a bit of a senile old bore, he'd usually launch into long, rambling monologues where he couldn't quite remember the correct details and which, by the time he'd stumbled to a halt, would be revealed to have tangential connection to the subject at hand if that.
  • Grey's Anatomy just keeps using this more and more, to the point that there was at least 5 of them in the Season 3 finale.
  • Various characters in Scrubs, most notably Dr. Cox, often go off on long-winded monologues or "rants".
    • Neil Flynn as The Janitor improvises quite a bit of his dialogue, and goes off on some pretty in-depth and quite wacky/surreal stories of questionable authenticity. Of course, there's plenty of outtakes where, in his attempts, he just completely derails.
  • The prosecutors, defense attorneys, litigants, and judges in every Law & Order series. But then, they are lawyers and judges...
  • The title character from Sherlock not only gives several elaborate monologues per episode, but at a speed that most people could never reach in their lifetime. This is juxtaposed against John's dialogue, which is occasionally repetitive and occasionally includes pauses in the middle of sentences as he thinks.
  • Steve on Coupling would often break into one when the episodes' plot had him backed into a corner and in trouble with Susan.
  • Ron White joked about this in one of his shows.
    Ron: I was kicked off the debate team. The other guy had just finished a long speech and I stood up and said "Yeah! Well Fuck you!"
    Ron: He was speechless. I thought that was what we were going for.
  • In Diff'rent Strokes, Arnold's vocabulary ranges from the innocent eight-year-old he is to someone much more mature when the script calls for it. In some cases, he doesn't know something simple, like what a hot tub is. Another time, he's able to read the small print on a legal notice that informs tenants of their rights, which he is able to articulate to others.
  • In M*A*S*H, the spontaneous quips by Hawkeye and BJ are so spot-on that they don't sound natural at all, especially in retorts to something Frank has said.
  • Game of Thrones: Everyone seems to have just the right witty comeback or appropriate analogy wound up in their pocket, just waiting to be unravelled at the push of a button.

    Radio Shows 
  • An interesting example comes from the 1950s radio program Nightwatch. An early forerunner of COPS, it featured reporter Don Reid following members of the Culver City Police Department around with recording equipment. Despite the candid nature of the program, and the fact that many of the suspects featured were either drunk or on drugs, aside from a few cases of awkward pauses, repetition and occasional drunken slurring, everybody on the show is surprisingly articulate. Nobody ever says "um" or "ah" and even the drunks are polite enough not to talk over other people. Though some of the may be put down to post-production editing, it's somewhat depressing to listen to this show today and realize how much the average person's linguistic abilities (not to mention manners) have degenerated since.

    Roleplaying Games 
  • Survival of the Fittest again, with several characters, although one of the most obvious is Bobby Jacks. This is inadvertently amusing if you consider that at least half of the time, he isn't saying these monologues to anybody but himself, effectively just vocalising his thoughts for no apparent reason.

    Theater 
  • William Shakespeare, being the most famous author of the English language, is perhaps the best known of anyone for characters giving long, eloquent speeches brimming with literary devices. Most characters in Shakespeare's plays speak entirely in verse, while commoners, stupid people and the insane (or those posing as insane) speak in prose that is often littered with malapropisms.
    • In between these two extremes, however, one will occasionally find short sentences that reflect casual, everyday English (such as "What's the matter?" in Act II of MacBeth.

    Video Games 
  • There's a running joke in Metal Gear fandom that there's only one character voice - Hideo Kojima's.
    • Partially justified in Metal Gear Solid 2 where the most obviously poetic speakers are the President of the US, a previous President of the US, a boss regarded as an overbearing Large Ham In-Universe and a machine that 'was born in the crucible of the White House', and Raiden loses his track in monologues at times ('you need c-courage, or - or ideals, or... something like that -') but still extremely blatant. Similarly justified in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops for the main villain, whose gimmick is that he has the power to give speeches - but definitely not for Double Agent Elisa who is a teenage girl (with psychic powers, admittedly) who talks in a similar manner.
    • Some particularly ridiculous uses of characters breaking out perfectly prepared monologues are when characters fluently quote statistics to each other, Infodump about their backstory for a quarter hour after having been shot through the lung, or start talking in elaborate and nonsensical metaphors about lightning and rain or letting the captured foxes run free in the wild.

    Webcomics 
  • Some Homestuck characters speak far more complexly and smoothly than any human logically should be able to, especially Rose, Dave, and Dirk, the latter of which naturally combines the qualities of the first two. The Autoresponder is even worse, but at least he has the excuse of being a computer. Dave in particular has a talent for going on long tangents and similes that often only barely resemble what they were actually talking about. Basically, when fanfiction writers deliberately forbid themselves from writing certain characters because they know they have no chance in hell of getting their speech patterns down, it's probably this, and that definitely applies to Homestuck.
    • Justified. Most of the dialogue is done via chat programs. It is a lot easier to type this way than it is to speak it in realtime.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: the "Soiled Dove Plea", given by Temple Lea Houston. A closing argument at an 1899 trial, it ensured a favourable verdict for his client. It was delivered without preparation, a few minutes after he'd been asked to represent the client (who was unquestionably guilty of the charge), and is considered by lawyers as the greatest closing ever made.

Shows with a realistic quantity of 'um's and 'ah's

    Anime and Manga 
  • The long defunct anime fanzine Protoculture Addicts once made a big deal about the amount of "uh", "er", "ah", "eh", "heh", and general grunting sounds in the dialogue of characters on Robotech. There was even an article called "Top Uh", where Rick Hunter got the top prize for the most "uh"-type sounds uttered. This is all probably due to the translation from Japanese to English and the attempt to match lip movements with the English dialogue. Also, the Japanese language does have a number of monosyllabic expressions that do sound like what English speakers would consider "filler" sounds.
  • Transformers Energon had this problem as a consequence of Lip Lock. Whenever the translated dialogue had too few sylables for the number of Mouth Flaps they'd pad it out with a lot of "um" and "yeah" and "dude". It actually kinda worked for Kicker and Ironhide, since they were supposed to be stupid kids, but not so much for the rest of them. The worst part is this is the least of Energon's problems...

    Comic Books 
  • The V for Vendetta graphic novel features very naturalistic dialogue, with occasional uh's and lots of pauses in the middle of sentences, especially that of Brian Etheridge. This contrasts V's eloquent, rhythmical, quotation-filled, literary prose.
    • Alan Moore's dialogue in general tends to be mostly naturalistic, but there will generally be one to three characters whose dialogue is not naturalistic, and this is almost always part of their characterisation. For example, in Watchmen the two characters with mostly unnaturalistic dialogue are Ozymandias and Rorschach, which makes sense given that both characters are deliberately cultivating identities, and Rorschach is even mentioned as having consciously chosen to alter his speaking patterns as part of his identity.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table, as a comic about table-top RPGs, tends to have overlapping dialog. Sometimes, two entirely separate discussions will be happening simultaneously.
  • Most comics by Roberta Gregory feature somewhat more realistic diction and speech patterns with an emphasis on "Ums" and "Uhs" and trailing off and people not always able to articulate what's on their mind.
  • Many comics (especially Y: The Last Man) seem to have characters pause and repeat a word when they want to affect realism. "That... That's not right."

    Film 
  • "Mockumentaries" are largely ad-libbed, which causes more realistic diction because the actors are really listening to each other and talking off the cuff. Examples include:
  • The Blair Witch Project is full of realistically inarticulate dialogue, which enhances the creepy verisimilitude or else just annoys the audience.
  • The Big Lebowski: the guys at the bowling alley speak realistically (uh... uh... uh...), yet many other characters speak like they're in a movie, highlighting the disconnect between the heroes and their surroundings.
  • Fargo: Oh yah, oh jeez, oh, um, um, yah.
  • The films of Robert Altman are famous for their use of overlapping dialogue. This was lampshaded by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin before presenting Altman with his lifetime achievement Oscar.
  • In the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, while most characters speak scripted-sounding lines, Slartibartfast speaks his with an overly realistic combination of corrections, um's, ah's and other "mistakes", having just woken up from millions of years of sleep.
  • Howard Hawks was a pioneering user of this technique.
  • One of the things that makes the original Alien movie so immersive is the way the characters talk (and at some points shout) over each other, especially during the dinner table scenes. This also serves to enhance the scariness when people start dying.
  • The Iron Man 1 film features many characters talking over each other at times and repeating what they'd already said. This was in part due to the script being left largely unfinished during filming, as the filmmakers had focused more on planning the action and the storyline. In fact, director Jon Favreau acknowledged that improvisation would make the film feel more natural. Robert Downey Jr. improvised a great deal of his dialogue, including his entire Jericho missile speech.
    • Particularly striking in the second movie, in his dialogues with Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • Done for great character development in Collateral. Max isn't the supercool, suave character Jamie Foxx usually plays. He's soft spoken, meek and far from confident. The way he flubs sentences reinforces this; only natural when being coerced by a deadly assassin. Two memorable aversions come when he take charge of a situation by imitating Vincent's ice cold style, and when he makes a short speech about how Vincent has actually inspired him to change his life for the better (before crashing the taxi to ruin Vincent's plan).
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, there is at least one instance of a conversation taking a nonsensical turn due to simple miscommunication. Perry shouts, "I'm talking money," which Harry hears as "talking monkey." Rather than correct him, Perry goes on a pointless tangent about a talking monkey who "came from the future" and "only says 'ficus.'"
  • The Austin Powers movies make a point of carrying realistic dialogue to its conclusion on a semi-regular basis. The "evil laugh" scene from the first movie may be of note, with Dr. Evil and his minions all performing his trademark shuddering evil laugh, and then awkwardly repeating it because nobody seems sure when the right moment to stop is.
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Apparently, Ken Loach doesn't let his actors rehearse much. It won a Palme d'Or, so there you go.
  • In Primer, characters speak in an aggressively natural style, mumbling and overlapping each other. Combined with the poor sound quality, many viewers complained that whole stretches of dialogue are completely inaudible. The style is slightly justified by the fact that many of the conversations Aaron has had were part of his attempts to follow a predetermined script for his conversations in the past in order to weed out errata in the timeline.
  • Some actors are known for injected realistic speech patterns into their work:
    • Michael Cera's signature comedic style is a very natural, somewhat mumbled delivery.
    • Jeff Goldblum is sometimes parodied for his famously stuttering delivery.
    • Jackie Earle Haley's character, Guererro in Human Target constantly says "dude". This became scripted after the writers noticed that this is how Jackie actually speaks, dude.
    • Christopher Walken's mannered start-and-stop dialect is also reflective of how he talks (and acts) in real life.
    "People always ask me if Christopher Walken is really like that in real life...and the answer is YES!" —The Rock on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" promoting The Rundown.
    • Most, if not all, of Calista Flockheart's character have a nervous stammer.
    • Jennifer Aniston often delivers her lines naturally.
    • Many of Steve Carell's roles tend to have him repeat words, trail off sentences, insert awkward pauses, and in general seem to have difficulty getting words out of his mouth.
    • Shia Labeouf also tends to do this, in part because of his tendency to ad-lib dialogue. Especially notable during the Transformers films with the human characters often talking over one another, with Labeouf being the most notable.
  • The actors improvised almost the entire speaking script for District 9. Director Neill Blomkamp had a script that was more like a list of directions and times for the actors to hit their marks, along with when and where specific events would occur. They would usually run several takes while the actors improvised their parts, both speaking and acting, and when everyone was happy with the way the scene had fleshed-out they would film it that way.
  • In France, the films of Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri.
  • This page (among others) at Stardestroyer.net tried to justify the horrible dialogue between Anakin and Padme in the Star Wars prequels as being realistic, considering that they were basically just sheltered, awkward teenagers.
  • Juno worked very hard at having natural dialogue that ultimately sounded like a cross between Totally Radical and a stroke victim. Honest to blog!
  • The Twilight movie tries this with Bella stuttering, breaking off words and, when she's really distressed, stopping in the middle of her sent-. This, of course, lead to merciless mocking by Rifftrax. Some of her lines, particularly one tangent she has about making rainsticks with chinchilla droppings and paper towel tubes before realizing Edward's looking at her like she's grown a third eye, are actually almost endearing in their dorkiness.
    • The end of the Cinema Sins video on the first Twilight film has a bonus round titled: "Breathing, Laughing, and Other Bella Noises"
    "I was worried the movie would water down the book, but all the "okay" "k" exchanges, thank god have been kept fully intact."
  • The surfer movie Blue Crush used a lot of overlapping dialogue.
  • Shirley Jackson travels both these roads. See Raising Demons on the quotes page. Also see above.
  • Woody Allen stutters and stammers his way through every role he's ever performed. When he doesn't play the lead, sometimes he'll get the lead to do an impression of him.
  • Clueless is filled to bursting with Valley Speak, you know? Like, hello?
    • However, the characters are absurdly witty despite their limited vocabularies, with rapid-fire quips and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture; only the socially awkward need ever resort to Buffy Speak. It's kind of like the Algonquin Round Table, only with mallrats and surfers.
    • It's lampshaded by the new girl, who is impressed by how eloquently everyone speaks, and hand waved that "this is a really good school"
  • Super 8 has very natural dialogue, with many instances of characters talking over each other, repeating things, stuttering and stumbling over words. Several scenes have two or three different conversations taking place at once.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man in general worked in a lot of natural dialogue, with only Curt Connors being the exception, while Peter and Gwen being the most notable examples, with Peter's mumbly disposition mostly helps to make him adorkable. Those who criticize the film tend to cite this as one of the reasons.
  • Birdemic features the mother of one of the characters, who is a sweet, genuine elderly woman who speaks totally naturally. It's so natural that some have said she might not even be acting. Being as the rest of the actors are extremely wooden and monotonous, she's about the the only convincing character in the movie.

    Literature 
  • Although he's been known to break out into speeches from time to time, in general the writing in the Harry Potter series is made to seem as natural as possible, individual speech patterns, occasional repetition and lots of uses of "Erm's, um's and Er" pepper the characters dialogue. This becomes a minor plot point in the fourth book when part of the sphinx's riddle involves "a sound often heard in the search for a hard to find word." Harry tries to think what this sound might be, using a lot of er's while doing so. Guess what the sound is?
  • Terry Pratchett tends to have his characters... you know, wossname... forget words in the middle of a thing.
    • In Eric, there's even a character who... wossname.... exemplifies this as a character trait, Eric's parrot. Since it has a limited wossname... dictionary, being a parrot and all, it uses 'wossname' frequently.
    • Pratchett extends this trope to writing, giving idiosyncratic spelling (often humorous) to characters who are eccentric, short of formal education or both.
    • And there's Gaspode:
      "Clothing has never been what you might call a thingy of dog wossname." Gaspode scratched his ear. "Two metasyntactic variables there. Sorry."
  • Lord of the Flies. While understandable, seeing as how they're just kids, the novel is almost painful to read because of how crude and ineloquent every character is.
  • Mark Twain pioneered authentic regional and social dialects for all of his characters. However the spelt-out slave patois (for example Jim in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) is irritating to some readers. note 
  • In the mystery novel "The Ruby Raven" by Michael Dahl, there are several moments when Finn hears someone say something nonsensical; he says "what?" and they repeat it, this time showing the word that was meant, since Finn merely just misheard them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Reno 911! is filmed largely like a mockumentary, with improvised dialogue and only the basic plot elements of the show being scripted.
    • In an episode where the deputies work with FBI agents, they note that the agents "Speak in paragraph form", while they're more used to saying things like, "That guy was shot, like, ten times."
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm was filmed like a mockumentary for its pilot episode, but dropped the format for the rest of the series. It remains a largely ad-libbed show.
  • The Mighty Boosh, particularly the radio show. The improvised dialogue leads to noticeable slurring, stuttering, and talking over one another.
  • The Office, especially the British version, is often assumed to be largely ad-libbed, like many other mockumentary films and shows. In reality, the show is tightly scripted to sound natural.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, features a great deal of overlapping and shouted-over dialogue, some of it improvised.
  • Some of the dialogue on Waking the Dead is improvised and/or directed so that the actors talk over one another, giving the character interactions a realistic feel.
  • The DVD commentary for Firefly mentions that they worked hard to get the dialogue to sound natural, even encouraging the actors to interrupt and talk over each other. The show includes a moment where one character mishears another due to pronunciation, and the conversation becomes derailed because of it. Does that seem right to you?
  • The first incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, whose speech pattern came from the fact that William Hartnell kept flubbing his lines and they didn't have the budget to do it over and over until they got it right.
  • Chris Morris' comedy series rely heavily on realistic-sounding dialogue to contrast with the surreal concepts. Steve Coogan does it quite a bit too, especially with Alan Partridge, who was originally created as a bumbling sports commentator who ummmed and aahhhhed an awful lot.
  • Shawn Spencer in Psych has a tendency to lose his train of thought and get side-tracked, often in the process either going off on slightly rambling tangents or stumbling to a halt entirely. Often times, he and his friend Gus will be discussing the latest case, only to go from debating a theory of the crime to trying to remember who that guy in the movie where the semi-trailer crashed into the express train was.
  • The hilarious show Parenthood will avert this from time to time. The parents will talk, the kids will talk, everyone's talking over each other.
  • Averted in part in Frasier, as many scenes feature characters (usually Frasier and Niles) arguing and talking over each other. Played straight the rest of the time, although justified in that Frasier and Niles are the type of characters who would talk eloquently.
  • LOST has several characters who speak with a very natural sounding dialogue, like Sawyer. Ben's dialogue has been accused of being too formal and filled with correct diction, until one watches an interview with Michael Emerson and realizes he really talks like that. Daniel Faraday's quiet, mumbling, stammering dialogue is both accurately and annoyingly realistic. Actor Jeremy Davies almost always performs like this, because he actually talks just like that!
  • Naturalistic, jumbled diction actually seems quite prevalent in Australian comedy - particularly in satires such as Frontline, The Hollowmen, and Clarke and Dawe's mock interview segments on the 7:30 Report.
  • The Thick of It emphasises that it isn't The Fucking West Wing with all the stumbling, repetition, hesitation, waffling, dragging out speech, people talking over and interrupting each other mentioned in the description. Some of the more driven and/or sociopathic characters such as Malcolm Tucker avert it to some degree, though.
  • Dr Cox from Scrubs occasionally uhms and looks around him when going on a rant, making it look like Cox actually improvises his speeches.
  • The Trip is entirely made up of two comedians have dinner conversations. They break down into critiques of each other's celebrity imitations, one another's physical failures, and just go off on tangents and try to make one another laugh through unexpected vocal covers of Popcorn.
  • One might wonder whether Alton Brown of Good Eats rehearses at all, but the reason for his stammering delivery is a little unusual. Brown has stated that using cue cards or a teleprompter isn't his style, and impractical given the nature of shots like the Fridge-cam. His solution is to script out and record his lines; while shooting the actual scene, he listens to this voice recording of himself via earpiece. Due to ad-libs or differences in timing, Brown often has to pause so he can re-sync with the recording. On his other shows, he typically either ad-libs completely or speaks more fluidly with memorized lines.
  • NCIS' McGee has a very realistic way of speaking, explaining himself in technical terms that he can follow, stuttering and tripping over his words when he's nervous, stating the obvious when he doesn't catch subtleties, and even freezing up at times when he's put on the spot. Ducky's way of speaking is also realistic for someone who rambles on with stories and information on a regular basis—listen to old men swapping stories sometime, they can go for hours without slowing or flubbing a single word. Ziva, on the other hand, is supposed to be an Israeli and to "prove" this she makes the occasional misguided word choice (particularly in idiomatic phrases or slang), which makes the fact that she usually has very fluid delivery seem out of place. It's been hinted at that she does it on purpose to get people to underestimate her.
  • JAG has a realistic quantity of 'um's and 'ah's, except for when closing arguments are delivered.
  • Any film or TV show by Shane Meadows, an extremely underrated British director, contains extremely realistic regional dialogue, ums, ahs, erms and swearing. This is to the point of the first Shane Meadows production you see being quite unnerving, and pretty incomprehensible to most people. Still very good though.
  • This is a standard part of Bob Newhart's style, which is purposefully awkward and a little befuddled. Younger audiences might remember this in his appearance on The Simpsons giving an impromptu eulogy.
  • The teenagers in Friday Night Lights are realistically inarticulate, and stammer and mumble to one another. Even the adults speak with the not-quite-perfect diction of a small Texas town. This was achieved by allowing the actors only one take, which meant all their mistakes were left in. This allowed the show to have a far more realistic style.
  • As is the far from refined cast of Rescue Me. However the stuttering has become somewhat Flanderized on Tommy's part. This is what Denis Leary's stand-up is actually like.
  • Like, My So-Called Life liked to use "like" a lot, to make it, like, sound more, like, real. It worked, like, really well.
  • The new Battlestar Galactica plays both sides of the trope. Most characters' dialogue consists of the usual eloquent fiction-speak, but then there's Gaius Baltar, who is continuously off-balance and frequently stumbles for words when put on the spot by other characters. In the first half of the series, this is due to Baltar's terror that someone is about to expose his secret: he was the one who betrayed, albeit accidentally, the Twelve Colonies to the Cylon attack fleet, and to the fact that he's also often distracted by conversing with a Number Six Cylon whom nobody else can see or hear.
    • This is also an exception that proves the rule, since Gaius' non-sequiturs and rambling speech patterns cause everyone else on the show to think he's crazy. (Admittedly, there are other reasons, but seeing him as an Absent-Minded Professor is part of it - even if his degree of absent-mindedness is actually realistic and it's everyone else who is weird.)
    • Yet another twist is the fact that Baltar is the most erudite, intellectual character on the show, and part of his Back Story is that he deliberately puts conscious effort into hiding a rustic accent. So the one guy on the show who actually should speak like a college professor is the only guy with rambling, disjointed, "realistic" speech.
  • Grey's Anatomy, oh my God. The whole repetition of dialogue, launching into random speeches, stuttering...
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with the Buffy Speak and a lot of Oh God, with the Verbing!. Giles was the exception, as the more cultured British guy. Wesley sometimes as well, until he got scared and started stammering all over.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Marshall claims it's really hard to come up with a good speech off the top of your head, so Ted starts giving him an example: he ends up stumbling over himself, correcting himself profusely and resorting to empty doublespeak.
  • Friends was excoriated by English teachers across the world for degrading the language with all its, like, disfluencies and, y'know, rising inflection? It's like, did they ever stop to think, y'know, "Maybe they're just talking like real people talk?"
    • One episode makes fun of Ross's tendency to do this when Rachel dates a guy identical to Ross, named Russ. Both of them occasionally stutter, repeat words, pause between words and use "um" and "uh" a lot.
  • Arrested Development frequently has awkward dialogue with plenty of stammering. Especially George Michael whenever Maeby is nearby.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Roleplaying Games 
  • Although this trope tends to be played straight in Survival of the Fittest, several characters do have very realistic dialogue, such as Keiji Tanaka (Shout-Out laden though it is) or Bill Ritch, both of whom tend to repeat themselves, as well as hesitate a lot, with the latter having quite the stammer.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Eddie Izzard uses a lot of placeholders and verbal stumbling in his stand-up delivery, though the routines themselves are pretty meticulously prepared. It works quite well.
  • Frankie Howerd's stand-up/variety routine was full of very spontaneous-sounding oohs, ers, digressions and asides to his pianist, all painstakingly scripted.
  • Billy Connolly once did a bit about a 'Difficult Listening' radio show that broadcast normal mumbled conversations that the audience couldn't hear properly.
  • Ross Noble spins out whole improvised routines based on his verbal slips or mis-hearing what the audience says.

    Theater 
  • The play Pillowman gives characters realistic speech patterns to heighten emotion and dramatic effect. Particularly noticeable with the character Tupolski when he starts repeating himself, falling back on verbal tics, ("if I go with my eyes like, 'go ahead and say something'"... "did I go with my eyes like, 'go ahead and say something'") and saying rather odd things in an attempt to sound threatening. (This is even mocked by another character later.)
  • Noises Off manages to work distraction, shaken confidence and a pathological stutter into the staccato rat-a-tat of a British farce. Garry, especially, who when not reciting lines never makes it to the end of a thought before forgetting what he was trying to say when he started it.
    Garry: Lloyd, let me just say, while we're stopped; I've worked with a lot of directors. Some were geniuses. Some were bastards. But I've never worked with anyone who was so absolutely... I don't know.
    Lloyd: Thank you, Garry; I'm touched. Now will you get off the fucking stage?
  • Harold Pinter's works ooze this. Especially The Caretaker.

    Video Games 
  • Certain scenes in Xenogears were written to have more natural dialogue, particularly several scenes with Fei and Elly.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the first game, while the dialogue is generally proper, there are instances of mumbling and using filler, mostly during little lines - the ones that happen without the camera giving you a closeup of the characters' face. Generally the subtitles are grammatically correct, the actual line reads less so. Garrus stammers when saying he's never seen the Council in person before. Ian Newstead, fighting mind control, slurs and babbles and drops words as he chants "My mind is my own." Liara gets flustered and incoherent.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Garrus says of Tali, "Tali's a welcome face around here... or... no. Well. A... a welcome face... behind the helmet. I guess." By the end they may hook up, and if discovered they both babble and stutter and in general deliver far less coherent versions of the lines in the subtitles. It is Adorkable.
  • Generally, everyone uses proper diction in Half-Life. The G-Man, however, is consistently stuttering, pausing, and taking in deep breaths, all of which could be considered too much even for real life speech. It actually helps make him appear as... something trying to appear human, and failing.
  • Gladius lampshades how unrealistic many RPG sidequests and rewards are with heavy use of awkward silences, stuttering, and conversations that just trail off.
  • Portal 2 has this through Wheatley, who (despite being a robot) frequently delves into this and Buffy Speak. Also applies to the damaged cores, who, due to faults, have unique/strange personalities which understandably cause tics and poor diction.
    • The entire ending sequence is guilty of this, as it involves a collection of robots rambling incessantly while you fight: there's the Big Bad suffering a Villainous Breakdown; the "Fact Sphere" mumbling dubious facts; the "Space Sphere" jabbering obsessively about space; and "Rick the Adventure Sphere" rambling about his (presumably delusional) adventures.

    Webcomics 
  • Although Homestuck also applies for the first kind, other characters fit here. Tavros has a tendency to speak very awkwardly with lots of 'uhh's 'err's, to highlight his nervous, dorky personality, while Roxy is perpetually drunk and has a tendency to make spelling errors she sometimes corrects. So what happens when the very awkward Tavros tries to troll the incredibly eloquent Dave? One of the most popular Funny Moments in the entire series:
    TG: no man
    TG: look
    TG: i just need to know when to be there
    TG: when the stars come into alignment and your flux capacitor lets you finally sate your meteoric greed for crotch-dachshund
    TG: i wouldnt want to miss it and cause a paradox or something
    TG: itd suck if the universe blew up on account of you missing your window of opportunity to help yourself to a pubescent boy's naked spam porpoise
    AT: uHHH,
    AT: oK, THIS IS SORT OF STARTING TO UPSET ME,
    TG: jesus you are such a shitty troll
    • Meenah also tends to misspell things, such as typing 'yea' instead of 'yeah', though in this case it's to indicate lack of care about such pretensions rather than accidents like it is for Roxy.

    Web Original 
  • lonelygirl15 gets this right... some of the time. Oddly enough, the more hectic "action" videos tend to be better at not sounding scripted, with characters scrambling and yelling over one another.

    Western Animation 
  • The dialogue in Creature Comforts consists entirely of unscripted interviews.
  • The shows of Adam Reed (e.g. Frisky Dingo and Archer) tend to have characters speaking in natural-sounding (and often realistically awkward), talking over one another, etc.
  • Family Guy. The show uses many situations in which characters break into very realistic and overlapping dialogue in ridiculous situations. Some viewers find this to be an Overly Long Gag, but: others love it and would turn violent if it went away.
  • It's one of the salient features of the title characters in Rick and Morty, and to a lesser extent other characters. Verbal tics, stammers, and corrections are all over the place. Almost everything on the list at the top has happened at some point.
  • Dialogue in early Popeye cartoons was often ad-libbed by Jack Mercer (Popeye) and Mae Questel (Olive Oyl). Characters frequently speak a mile-a-minute, mutter random observations under their breath, and talk in confused gibberish when situations get hectic.
  • Dr Katz and Home Movies, in which a lot of the dialogue is ad-libbed.

    Miscellaneous 
  • David Mamet is known for his signature dialogue style, which manages to be very naturalistic and very stylized at the same time.
    • This is also the reason why older titles have characters talking fast, making weird exclamations, or odd line flows. Today, there are technologies to make small adjustments to lip flaps, and the voice tracks can be edited to fit better.
  • Chicago journalist Bob Greene once wrote a vicious column about Mayor Richard J. Daley which provoked a storm of controversy. It consisted of a verbatim, un-corrected transcript of one of the mayor's press conferences.

Repetition
PunchlineOmnipresent TropesReality Is Unrealistic
The Queen's LatinLanguage TropesRecursive Translation
Raptor AttackReality Is UnrealisticRubik's Cube International Genius Symbol
Reading the Stage Directions Out LoudDialogue'The Reason You Suck" Speech
Reading the Stage Directions Out LoudSelf-Demonstrating ArticleRecursion
Puzzle ResetAcceptable Breaks from RealityThe Reveal

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