Saturday, April 17, 2010

What Do You Talk About, When You Have To Talk


I am not about to talk with that wise tone, as if I know everything there is to be known about the art of composing a fictitious tale [though the said tone I use for contemplation and reflection upon a said topic]. Recently, while almost hitting the middle of the novel [not quite there yet] I am more and more aware that I am not as good as I would like to be at crafting dialogue. There is not much of a dialogue to begin with or so I believe and whenever I start a conversation, I am at a loss about how exactly to start it. Prompt an organic feel to the situation.

My instinct is to slap 'so' + a question and see where it goes. Usually, it all goes into a distinct monotonous question - answer pattern, which makes the whole dialogue seem forced and staged for the purpose of informing the reader or the character of something. Not to mention how much I loathe wise cracking and how often I fall into that pitfall, when the story itself is not supposed to be one. I am seriously fighting the inner instinct to imitate life-audience sitcoms and their laugh-out-loud pauses, every time someone delivers a punch line and boy, did they deliver the punch lines. Felt like a comedic boxing tournament.

But I digress. The conclusion is one. I need to pay attention how dialogue is constructed in other books and become slightly schizophrenic in order to hear my characters better. Oh, I also would like to read and contemplate more on dialogue as well.

So the question stands: "What Do You Talk About, When You Have To Talk?" [via your protagonists]


Wedge Faraway said...
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Wedge Faraway said...

The what and why of my character's conversations with each other is defined by the software I use for writing itself, i.e. Liquid Story Binder.
This little piece of shit forces me to flesh out every character used (and every situation forced on this characters) simply by virtue of allowing me to add a certain song, a certain image or thoughtful crack in the first place.
I find it unnatural and insanely self-serving to let my characters talk about things I as an individual find to be worthy of being talked about, especially after having given each character vices and habits; it just looks like philosophical and intellectual rape to do so, despite the characters being different from me as a person.

I must add that by doing stories like that, my characters are few in numbers, if only for not having the fucking time to create dozens of them.

Marcia Colette said...

I usually put myself in my characters' heads and have the conversation. Take into account their jobs, personalities, point of view and devise every sentence. Get pissed, get scared. Throw some body language into it. One thing I found out about body language is that it sometimes tells the story better than actual words. Don't have a conversation where two people are standing still. Have then walking around or doing other things. Even better, have some moron who has no clue about what just transpired accidentally walk into the scene and spill everything. Trust me, life will get interesting after that. Then, throw yourself into your character(s) and ask yourself, "What would you do if you were in their shoes?" Also, never beat around the bush when it comes to relaying the important stuff to the reader. Just throw it out there and let the chips fall where they may.

Those are some of the tricks I use to get through conversations. I wouldn't call myself the queen of dialogue by any means, but I like jumping from skin to skin when it comes to my characters.

Hope this helps. :-)

Matthew Sanborn Smith said...

I refer you to this to get you going in the right direction:

You don't your people exchanging information or small-talk, you want some conflict. If you don't know where to start, then start with the protagonist demanding what he or she needs next from the other person. Throw in an insult for fun. Let it roll.

Harry Markov said...

@ Wedge: Nice. I myself am going old school with hand writing the first draft, so I bet that causes a fair share of the trouble. I am aware that the characters have to be fleshed out.

@ Marcia: I am more inclined to do the conversation as in a script. Only write the lines and afterward edit in the body language or so, because if I try to do it all, the thought process jars and I get nowhere slower than I would like to. This may be why, it feels so stinted.

@ Matthew: Yes, conflict. Thanks, I have disregarded this one and I pretty much knew it. Also thanks for the link and will think more actively about how conversations occur.

Matthew Sanborn Smith said...

I also end up writing the dialog first and then adding beats and actions in later. Don't know if it's right or wrong, but it's what I do.

Harry Markov said...

Ah good to hear. :) I am not the only one.