Help with dialogue:

Total posts: [9]
1 Zendervai21st Jan 2013 02:19:53 PM from St. Catharines , Relationship Status: Wishing you were here
Eccentric Dreamer
Hello, I've been writing a novel, and I've been told the world building is really good, but the characters are so flat it's like 'they've been run over by a steamroller'. Like, each character has flashes of a distinct personality, but it almost never comes through with dialogue.

Are there any good tips and advice for writing dialogue?
This is far too vague... maybe put up some short extracts? Either here or link to a pastebin or something.

The only general advice I can give is 'read more books', preferably books set in the real world - that way, you won't be distracted by the worldbuilding stuff there, and it might be easier to concentrate on things like the dialogue.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
turning and turning
The best tip I've ever heard for writing, and for understanding, dialogue is that people very, very rarely answer each other directly. Once someone tells you that you start to pick it up a lot in conversations - almost everything we say is obliquely relevant to what the other person said rather than a straight answer. If you can imitate that in your writing it sounds a lot more natural and realistic.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
4 drunkscriblerian25th Jan 2013 05:33:44 PM from Castle Geekhaven , Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
I would second the request for a short sample - perhaps a single conversation from start to finish - so I can give you more specific advice.

One general hint I find works pretty well though; say your dialogue out loud ( if you can, get someone else to read the other parts). If you both keep stumbling over the words, it isn't natural. If you have to take a breath mid-sentence, the sentence is probably too long for dialogue.
If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
5 chihuahua025th Jan 2013 05:38:50 PM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
Writer's Welcome Wagon
[up] The last point I would take with a grain of salt, since Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic, and sometimes people pause and hesitate in the middle of natural sentences.
6 LastHussar25th Jan 2013 05:44:01 PM from the place is here.
The time is now,
Try role-playing scenes. I wrote a whole scene by acting it out first.
Do the job in front of you.
7 drunkscriblerian25th Jan 2013 06:04:38 PM from Castle Geekhaven , Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
@c0: sorry, wasn't clear there. Stumbling in speech can happen. But if you repeatedly stumble over the same piece of dialogue, it's probably not good dialogue. And, you can have snappy wordplay that's still say-able. Joss Whedon gets a lot of mileage here, as do several authors.

[up]I've done that too, works well if you have people who like to act. Make sure you have a tape recorder/video recorder, and make certain you are going to get good volume levels on tape.

edited 25th Jan '13 6:05:27 PM by drunkscriblerian

If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
The thing I worry about is that in making my dialogue sound natural, I'm giving it the same quirks and phrases that I'd tend to use. Or that I make my intelligent characters that'd use more complicated vernacular the same speaking patterns.

And then instead of sounding like different people speaking, it all just sounds like variations of myself?

The problem is, I can only thing of so many quirks or speaking patterns.

(Strangely, I have a better time figuring out how people TYPE than speak. Thank/blame Homestuck?)

edited 25th Jan '13 8:20:45 PM by Hermiethefrog

9 LastHussar26th Jan 2013 03:42:37 AM from the place is here.
The time is now,
Write it, the read the whole scene (Not just dialogue) back as though you were reading 'for real'. You'll spot the bits that don't sound right.

Also think about your characterisation- this can gives them individual quirks. For instance Jennifer ALWAYS uses a persons full name, not the abbreviation (Richard not Rich), Lizzie can speak without thinking, while Gabe always speaks what he sees as the truth, but his words are always considered and accurate. SO even though Lizzie and Gabe speak undiplomatically, they come from different places (in their minds) so the speech patterns are different. I convey Lucy's vulnerability by her use of slightly childish words - she uses 'Meanie', despite being in her 40s.
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Total posts: 9