Saturday, 3 March 2012

Thoughts on Dialogue

So recently I dusted off an old manuscript of an 'urban fantasy' I had been working on some time ago. After reading it again and correcting the many errors in both punctuation and narrative point of view I decided that it would be a good project to continue. Thus I have once again begun plucking away at it.
The story follows a typical teenage named Rose after a break up with her boyfriend. In order to properly console her, her best friends Annie and James take her out to a cafe where we are introduced to the other two supporting characters, West and Ivan. From there they attempt to proceed home when set upon by muggers. When one of the muggers attempts to rape Rose she manages to 'portal' her way home. From there magical mayhem ensues as she attempts to figure out just what is going on in her life.

While reading/writing/editing I was pleased with how I had captured the dialogue and interests of fifteen year old characters, considering I was not much older at the original time of writing this was much easier. Though as it is about three years on I do have some trouble making the dialogue appropriate I feel and must wrack my memory for how people would have spoken.

I think that writing proper dialogue is something that can give many writers difficulty. I for one can sometimes be stymied as I have trouble making my dialogue sound realistic. In some ways I feel constrained by attempting to put good diction in, which I find fairly unrealistic whenever I talk to anyone I realise how poor my diction is. On top of that I find my mind sometimes struggles to think of appropriate conversations and mannerisms for characters speech. I make a strenuous effort to avoid every character having the same sort of conversational style as it would simply rob characters of their originality.

It is also sometimes difficult to shape characters how I want them, especially in the case of Ivan. He is a character that doesn't speak much and must relay many thoughts through his looks and sometimes cryptic statements. So when writing his dialogue he has to be brief and to the point which is why I have trouble putting him in most conversations. Then of course in establishing individual quirks and mannerisms I find myself having some confidence but hesitation as I reflect on "would someone really speak this way?" which does slow my pace considerably.

While reading other authors such as George R R Martin or Robert Jordan I've been studying their dialogue closely (mostly Tyrion, and Mat Cauthon purely because of their wit) and attempting to find ways of my own to properly fill out dialogue. In making my own characters I find that I have to think deeply and wonder about their personalities and ask myself 'how would this character say that?' or 'how is he or she going to react to something that has been said?'. It is a fascinating process and one that takes alot of time if you sincerely want to put effort into a work.

I highly reccommend other upcoming writers study dialogue from other authors and their methods of putting words in characters mouths (as it were) and making them act according to their character. If a character speaks and says something that doesn't match with their words before, the reader is going to notice.

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