Showing posts with label writing dialogue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing dialogue. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

5 Basic Functions of Dialogue



In an article over at Writer’s Digest, the author explained that ‘real’ dialogue doesn’t spell everything out.

So, what does this mean?

Well, people communicate with more than just words and often there’s a lot left unsaid in a conversation. Narration or the protagonist’s thoughts can fill in the blanks.

Here’s an example from “Crispin – The Cross of Lead” (honored with the John Newberry Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution To American Literature For Children):

“Where’s Bear?” she asked when we entered the back room.

“Asleep.”

“You mustn’t be seen,” she said. “He should have told you.”

I made no reply, assuming Bear had told her of the attack on me, and that she felt a need to protect me. If Bear trusted her, I told myself, so should I.


Perfect blend of dialogue and narration.

With this in mind, let’s go over some of the functions of dialogue with the help of narration.

1. Dialogue helps reveals the character’s traits.

“Hey, Pete. Looks like you’re having some trouble with that tire. Need a hand?”

“Ugh,” moaned Pete as he struggled to lift the tire. “I-I got it.”


So, here with a bit of dialogue, it shows that Pete may have a chip on his shoulder, maybe because he’s smaller than the other character. He’d rather struggle than accept help.

Here’s another example:

“The car’s stuck in the mud. There’s no way we’re getting it out of there. It won’t budge,” said Desmond.

Brain shoved his baseball cap back on his head. “All we have to do is get the truck. We’ll hook on a tow line and pull her out.”


In this scene, through dialogue we learn that Desmond sees the cup half empty – he can’t see how something can be accomplished. Brian on the other hand sees the cup half full. He knows he can get the job done. And, we know Brian wears a baseball cap.

Here’s another example:

“I’ll have turkey on rye with the mayo, lettuce, and tomato on the side. And, I’d like the bread lightly toasted. Please be sure it’s just lightly toasted. And, I’d like water, no ice, with two lemon slices on the side.”

Just from a simple lunch order, we know that the character is extremely picky. She knows what she wants and expects to get it.

I got this scenario from “When Harry Meet Sally” with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. It’s an amazing scene in the movie.

2. Dialogue can show what a character does for a living.

Christine looked over the documents. “Who’s responsible for these prints? They’re all wrong. The bathroom should be on the second floor and the living area should be an open concept. Somebody’s head is going to roll.”

In this scene, Christine obviously deals with blueprints. Maybe she’s an architect reviewing a subordinate’s plans. We also know she’s in charge and doesn’t take mistakes lightly.

Here’s another simple example:

“Give her oxygen and get her into the OR stat.”

From this little bit of dialogue, we can assume the person talking is a doctor and she’s working in an emergency room.

Here’s another example:

Rachel tapped the pencil on the desk. She looked around the room. Everyone was busy writing. “Man, I should have studied,” she whispered.

In this scenario we can assume Rachel is a student and her class is taking a test. We also know she wasn’t prepared for the test.

3. Dialogue can show relationships.

“Mom said you have to clean the garage before going to practice,” said Frank with a smile.

“Geez. How come you don’t have to clean the darn garage?”


From this conversation, we know the two involved are siblings, probably brothers. And, it would seem the one who has to clean the garage is older and has more chores. He’s also annoyed about that fact.

Now on the flip side, you can have information dump in dialogue – this isn’t a good thing:

“Mom said you have to clean the garage before going to practice,” said Frank with a smile.

“Geez. How come you don’t have to clean the darn garage? Just because you’re two years younger than me you get away with everything.”


It’s easy to see that the last sentence is added just to inform the reader that Frank is two years younger than his brother. This is information dump.

4. Dialogue can show how educated a character is through choice of words.

“You need to ascertain whether you and he are compatible.”

“You need to figure out if you two are a good match.”


Simple examples, but you get the point.

5. Dialogue can show tension between characters.

Sammy dropped his books and stood with his fists clenched. “Do that one more time and you’ll never do it again.”

Dylan shook his hands. “Ooohhh. I’m scared. Do you mean don’t do this again?”


This scene clearly shows tension between Sammy and Dylan. And, it shows that Dylan is the instigator of the tension.

Here’s another example:

Sara stormed up to Alicia’s desk. “You stole my idea. Mr. Peter’s is doing a full campaign based on it. Tell him it’s my idea or I’ll tell him.”

“That’s not happening,” said Alicia without hesitation. “If you weren’t careless enough to leave your notes on your desk, I wouldn’t have seen them.” She pulled a lipstick and mirror out of her desk and fixed her lips. “If you go to the boss, he won’t know who to believe. Want to risk him think you’re lying to get ahead?”


Again, this is a tension packed scene.

There are also other functions of dialogue like conveying underlying emotions, creating atmosphere, and driving the plot forward. Using dialogue and narration allows you to paint vivid pictures. Your choice of words will give your characters and your story life.

Source:
Writing a Scene with Good Dialogue and Narration

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

You can follow Karen at:

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/writingforchildrenwithkarencioffi/
LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter  http://twitter.com/KarenCV


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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Developing Dialogue



by Valerie Allen

There are no absolute rules about creating good dialogue, but some guidelines help shape a story. Well written dialogue goes unnoticed by the reader because it sounds right. It is not stiff. It is not artificial. It is written to sound as if someone is speaking.

Dialogue has three main functions:

1.  Reveal more about a character
2.  Establish the relationship of one character to another
3.  Move the story forward

Some basic guidelines for using good dialogue include:

•    Create a new, indented paragraph every time a different character speaks.

•    If more than one speaker is involved in the conversation use his name to clarify who is speaking.

•    Use the noun verb form (Valerie said  not said Valerie).

•    If it is a statement the tag is said (“Valerie is here,” she said.).

•    If it is a question, the tag is asked (“Valerie, where are you?” she asked.).

•    Use movement, a gesture, or a tag instead of said/asked (Valerie opened the door. “Here I am.”).

•    Use vocabulary appropriate to the age, education, and culture of the speaker, as well as the context of the story.

•    Write conversation as it is spoken, not structured as standard written English.

•    Dialogue is primarily about what the speaker believes his problems or conflicts to be.

•    Punctuate so it is easily read without confusion (George, the alligator bit me. George, the alligator, bit me.   George! The alligator bit me.).

•    Do not have characters continuously address each other by name.

•    Do not have characters giving each other information they already know; use exposition. (Not: Valerie, I remember on your birthday, May 10th, we went on a picnic. Use: Valerie, I remember last year we went on a picnic for your birthday).

•    Avoid dialects; use just a few telltale words to give the flavor of the dialect and then return to standard English.

•    Contractions make dialogue more natural.

•    Use apostrophes for missing letters (don’t, you’ve, goin’)

•    Incomplete sentences are common in dialogue (“Where are we going?”,“Out”, “Where out?”, “Quiet—l or you’re not going!”)

Good dialogue does not confuse the reader. Good dialogue clarifies what is being said by whom.

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. (Amazon.com/author/valerieallen) She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors with two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com  and AuthorsForAuthors.


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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Writing - Sometimes It Isn't Smart to Avoid Cuss Words


By Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Many who know me—personally or as a writer--think of me as that sweet woman with the silver hair (platinum, if you please, but not gray!). However, I can on occasion—and sometimes more frequently—let loose with language you would unfriend me for. So I was thrilled to see an article in AARP: The Magazine titled “In Praise of Cussing.”

It turns out that a few carefully chosen zingers can be “an indicator of intelligence” according a study from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Marist College in New York.

Yay!

And expletives can help “reduce and endure physical pain” as well. That’s from Keele University in England. Yep. And “forge better teams in the workplace” and “communicate more persuasively.”

One survey even says I am in good company (meaning the majority!). Fifty-seven percent of workers swear on the job. (I do try to avoid doing that! And I also almost never swear when I am driving! So there!)

So, I don’t think you’ll ever find an unsavory expletive in my newsletter, but you are sure to find idioms and colloquialisms everywhere. I do try not to let even my foulest fictional characters cuss beyond what is needed for their character and the situation. And, yes sometimes I use words with lots of syllables, too, especially when they say things better than the short ones (which is rarely).

All this is not to encourage writers to cuss. It is to remind them that if the words they use in dialogue are too. . . mmmm. . .staid, they may render them . . . well, let’s say unnatural? Or stilted?

One of your characters may just be the type who must have a potty mouth if she is to seem real to your reader. And sometimes that character won’t be the tough-talking dude cliché. Those who write humor know that tough-talking character may be a fragile woman with gray. . . er. . . platinum hair.


Carolyn has been a proud contributor to Writers on the Move since its inception. Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and founder and owner of a retail chain to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoterand her multi award-winning The Frugal Editorwon awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. Her newest book in the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.

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