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Old 01-10-2010, 12:13 PM   #1
Joebill
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writing conversation in fictional stories ?

Some years ago I tried to write a short story, but the conversations between the characters was rather... wooden, boring, etc. One of the reasons I started writing poetry instead of fiction.

Does improvement come from practice, are there books that explain how to write good conversations, or is there some other way to learn this ?

Thanks.
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Old 01-10-2010, 10:55 PM   #2
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There are many answers to your question.

The best method is always practice makes perfect. However, if you need that extra dose of reality, go people watching for an afternoon. When I lived in NJ I would sit outside at a cafe in Trenton and just eavesdrop on conversation and watch people as they passed by.

I'd also watch lots of television and interact with people.

Other things to try would be to read your dialog out loud (insert character voices if you'd like) You'll know it's right if it sounds right.

If all else fails and you still want to read a book on dialog, I'd recommend "Take your Characters to Dinner"

Though it deals more with making your characters more people than plot devices...it'll still provide some sort of answers you're looking for.

You can also read what you like to read and study the way the author writes his words.

Hope this helps!
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Old 01-11-2010, 01:22 AM   #3
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Quote:
the conversations between the characters was rather... wooden, boring, etc. One of the reasons I started writing poetry instead of fiction.
So..... does that mean poetry is boring?

They say that practice makes perfect.. I would also really listen to dialogue in real life... There's some beautiful stuff out there, and having a notebook with you to write down any great pieces would be an advantage (Notebook - just pen and paper)
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Old 01-11-2010, 10:32 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joebill View Post
Some years ago I tried to write a short story, but the conversations between the characters was rather... wooden, boring, etc. One of the reasons I started writing poetry instead of fiction.

Does improvement come from practice, are there books that explain how to write good conversations, or is there some other way to learn this ?

Thanks.
I wouldn't worry about making the conversation ring true, or be realistic as a lot of writing coaches tell us. True and realistic dialogue is dull and tedious to read. What you want in any dialogue is tension, the conflict of two opposing wants. You can achieve it any number of ways, in the dialogue itself or even as thought or narration. Compare these examples.


Pass 1:

"Pass the salt," Mikey said.

"This salt here?" Joey said, motioning toward the rack of condiments on the table.

"Yeah, that salt. Pass it over."

Joey picked up the salt and slid it over the table.

------------------------------------------


Now, here's exactly the same dialogue but we make the scene interesting:

Pass 2:

"Pass the salt," Mikey said. His nose twitched like a dog about to show its teeth. He glared at Joey, but the dumb f**k wasn't even looking back.

"This salt here?" Joey's beady little eyes travelled only an inch from the print of the newspaper to the condiments on the table. He fired a finger toward the salt cellar.

"Yeah, that salt. Pass it over." The words came out through clenched teeth. Mikey's finger slid in under the trigger guard of the gun he was holding beneath the table.

One in the balls, you *** , for sleeping with her. And one in the kisser just for good luck. You don't deserve a third bullet you f**k.

Joey picked up the salt and slid it across the table.

-----------------------------

As with everything in writing there is no secret key, except for the secret key which I will tell you now: in everything you write, every word, every scene, every chapter, somebody must want something and until the very end, they can't have it.

You change the want and you change the scene.

Pass 3: (In this one Mikey is a star-crossed lover, Joey the object of his love)

Even now as they sat across from one another, so close that he thought he could hear Joey's breathing, Mikey couldn't find the right words. In his mind he'd rehearsed this a thousand times and every time was better than the last. But reality was a different beast.

He opened and closed his mouth three times before he found any words.

"Pass the salt," he said.

She didn't look up. Her eyes flitted from the photographs on the table to the salt shaker and back again.

'This salt here?" she said.

Mikey's face flushed red. Good going, Don Juan, you're a real smooth talker, a real ladies man. Pass the fucking salt? What are you going to do to follow that one up? It'll have to be something damn spectacular if you don't want her to think you're a drooling idiot.

He found some words, they were good words, honest words. Words that would put everything right with the world.

Then he spoke.

"Yeah that salt. Pass it over," he said.

She slid the salt shaker across the table and it was as if she were saying "Goodbye".

---------------------------------------

Last edited by Alexander Turcic; 11-19-2010 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 01-11-2010, 07:36 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by lene1949 View Post
So..... does that mean poetry is boring?

They say that practice makes perfect.. I would also really listen to dialogue in real life... There's some beautiful stuff out there, and having a notebook with you to write down any great pieces would be an advantage (Notebook - just pen and paper)
No, just lacking in conversation.
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Old 01-11-2010, 07:40 PM   #6
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Thanks. I see the book "Take your Characters to Dinner" isn't too much money.

Several people who I emailed on a mailing lsit we put together told me I was good with story hooks and drawing the reader in. I believe i am fairly good at grammar...
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Old 01-11-2010, 09:22 PM   #7
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Hm. I usually discourage people from thinking too much in the first draft.

I wouldn't focus too much on grammar or spelling or anything else like that in a first draft. That's something you can always work on later.

I've found that more often than not people will stress over getting "the perfect voice," the "perfect syntax," "The perfect hook" and then story takes a backseat to making the first draft polished. A first draft isn't mean to be polished
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Old 01-12-2010, 06:38 AM   #8
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I don't try for perfection, I just want it to work. When I write poetry, I go through it, and go back and look for misspelled words.

Most poems I write don't seem to need much in the way of polishing. A few times they have taken several days work, but that it very rare. Typically less than an hour of writing and the poem is complete.

The short story attempt came before the poetry writing, so the quickness of the poetry didn't influence me in my short story work.
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:50 AM   #9
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Good advice from mojoe above.

The thing with dialog (as with everything else in a story) is that it must advance the plot or story or provide insight to the characters etc. It must have a reason for being there and being dialog instead of description or action.

Here are a couple of links:

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/c...p/dialogue.htm

http://www.sfwriter.com/ow08.htm

http://www.right-writing.com/natural.html

http://www.musik-therapie.at/PederHi...gue&Detail.htm

Last edited by kennyc; 01-12-2010 at 07:52 AM. Reason: added link
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Old 01-12-2010, 01:55 PM   #10
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Agree with everything said here. I'd add that, if you're going to make it regional (like a typical Southern or New England accent, for examples), make sure you word it carefully.

And the nice thing about dialogue is that it will go a long way in making the reader relate to the character. When a character talks in a believable way, it's a big step in fleshing him or her out.
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