First Person Dialogue
Ever read a book and become enchanted by the characters? What is it about them that entrances our thoughts? Just words on a page, most of the time fictional, and yet we can’t help the excitement to read about them.
The question must be asked, what makes them so real to us? A large part goes to designing the character, molding them from our imaginative clay. The other bit goes to a notoriously challenging aspect of writing; dialogue.
It is the scrying bowl with which we learn of the characters personality. So it stands to reason, there is a right way to do it right? Sadly, no. Dialogue is the translation between vocalized thoughts and written word, thus it is subjective to the writing style of the individual author.
Reading a conversation between Bilbo Baggins and Smaug is going to be different to the banter between Spiderman and Doctor Octopus.
Luckily, I know a few little tips and tricks that make the process easier.
1. Outlines and Guides are Your Best Friend.
Before even contemplating writing, sit down and take a minute to think up some rules.
First thing you need to decide is what kind of book you are writing. Is it a witty anthology involving complex characters, perhaps a comedic romance, or a soul crushing drama?
Each of these will dictate the flow of dialogue. For example: I plan on writing a light hearted adventure story following a prince as he attempts to slay a dragon.
I decided that the Prince should be a sheltered aristocrat; therefore, the Prince will use long flowery sentences as well as structuring the sentences stiffly to simulate his awkwardness around people.
It doesn’t have to be a complicated set of rules, just something to follow as the story is being written.
2. Keep it Simple.
When it comes to writing in general, I follow the K.I.S.S. principle. I.E. Keep it simple stupid. People seem to believe that a great book is full of intricate sentences composing of long words. However, that is not the case.
A reader only has so much time and patience to read a book. If they have to be holding a thesaurus alongside yours, then the dialogue needs trimming down.
Dialogue follows this principle. A person naturally gravitates to short, quick bursts rather then drawn out rhetoric.
Which sounds more natural?
A: “Hey, how’s it going? Having a good day?”
B: “Greetings, how art thou doing? Enjoying this vigorous morn?”
I think it pretty clear which is easier to read. If I have a hard time deciding on whether my dialogue is to wordy, I just read it out loud. Typically, it will sound unnatural if it is too complicated.
3. Be Creative.
Dialogue is an opportunity. Each metaphorically spoken word reveals little snippets of a persons character. History, temperament, emotion, they add glimmers of life to a character. So it speaks for itself when I say be creative.
This person drawls his words out so he must be a southerner who likes sweet tea and peaches. That character has a lisp thus they have a cleft lip.
He must be depressed due to his stiff, dry, dark voice. Dialogue is the most subtle way of showing a characters soul without just dropping flashbacks left and right. Use them wisely.
Spoken, written word adds color to any novel. Its what makes a character living, breathing beings. Therefore, we must be diligent in our use of it. Outlines must construct the bases that we work with, simplicity to keep the model light, and creativity to paint a vivid picture.