Many people hear voices when there is no-one there. Some are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.
Writing dialogue is tricky. You put in your book too little dialogue and characters won’t be developed properly; you put in it too much dialogue and you end up having unnecessary information. In both cases, the book turns out boring.
A common struggle for many writers is not knowing how to write dialogue; a dear friend once told me that she spent hours trying to figure out how to make her characters interact without success.
My problem is quite the opposite: I tend to use way too much dialogue in my stories. I find it almost too easy to write, and it’s like the words just write themselves whenever two characters are in a scene together.
What generates dialogue?
Trying to understand why I’m such a “dialogue freak”, I went back to when I was a child: I loved playing with dolls with my sister, and the “characters” we played were so well-defined and had such strong personalities that at some point they were creating their own story.
I believe that once you have created a character and defined their personality thoroughly, dialogue just flows on the pages naturally. Knowing your character, knowing what they like or hate, and knowing their deepest feelings allow you, as an author, to give them a voice and speak for themselves.
The best resource ever
Consistently with your character’s personality, a great resource for writing dialogue is, for obvious reasons, real life.
Writing a natural dialogue is the key to let readers empathize with the characters and make the characters more human. There are two examples that I can give, related to my own experience, and both are dialogues that actually made it into the final version of Back in the rain.
- The first one comes from the saddest drunk talk I heard in my life. I was at a party and there was a girl who had just been dumped by her girlfriend. She was super cheerful and funny when she started drinking, until she burst out crying and said, “… I thought I was special. I wanted to be special.”
At that moment we all realized what she had really been thinking all night, despite looking fine. I replicated this real-life scene in my book, with a girl who was in a very similar situation and I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out.
- The second one comes from an embarrassing conversation I had while exchanging texts with a friend.
HIM: “I’m honestly a brute, you know.”
ME: “Deep down I think you’re a sadist.”
HIM: “A reformed masochist, actually.”
ME: “Too much information.”
I put this entire dialogue in my book during a cute scene where my characters were starting to know and fall for each other and I feel it gave a nice touch to their conversation.
This is how I write dialogue, and I hope it will be of some help to those who have problems doing it.
Of course writing too much dialogue isn’t going to work either, so the secret is to balance descriptions, introspection and dialogue (something I’m still trying to learn).
If you have any more tips and suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
Lots of love,