Friday, July 21, 2006

dialogue--help

OK, so now that I know what I have to do, I have to figure out how to do it. Here's where you come in, dear readers. Do you have any ideas as to how to write dialogue that's distinct to each character? Exercises, suggestions on people to read, etc. will all be greatly appreciated! Best Blogger Tips

4 comments:

FatCharlatan said...

I recommend Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper.

She writes each chapter according to a different character's POV (each chapter is written in first person). She transitions from 12-year-old girl to 19-year-old male to 30-something man and woman to mid-life mom and dad--she makes it look easy.

What's cool is that she sometimes includes the same scene from two different points of view...

Her dialogue is distinct to each character.

It's one of my all-time favorite books...you don't have to read the whole thing to get the feel for how she does it (but consider yourself warned--you'll probably get sucked in).

I also recommend Plain Truth, Vanishing Act, and Second Glance by Picoult as well and "Trans-Sister Radio" by Chris Bohjalian.

The key with dialogue, I think, is making sure that your characters don't all sound like you. It can be a challenge writing in a different gender...so how do you think like a guy if you're a woman (and vice versa)? Immerse yourself in stuff that speaks to that particular gender--read some magazines geared towards men...the writing will be different. Tape a few soap operas and really focus on the difference between what the man says (and how he says it) and what a woman character says.

Have you read Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain"? If not, e-mail me...(even if you've seen the movie...you gotta read this...and it's a great study in dialogue).

I hope other people respond to this because I'm curious as to what some of the other writers out there do.

DJPare said...

I've never read MY SITER'S KEEPER, but it sounds like a great idea and I am going to pick it up myself next time I'm at the bookstore. Thanks!

I don't have any great advice. Although I will say that NO man in the real world would say anything that you see coming out of a character on a soap opera. I'm just sayin...

FatCharlatan said...

I'll admit that soap opera story lines are far-fetched...but they are dialogue driven (granted, some shows are better than others)...and it doesn't have to be a soap...pick The Sopranos or Sex and the City...or (fill in the blank)...I think TV shows and/movies are great places to study dialogue...

Actually, that's another idea...pick up a script to a movie you love...study how the dialogue is written (I know that there are people out there who will disagree with me, claiming that writing for the screen and print are two different things...but I disagree...write the way people talk, and your readers aren't going to complain). I'm a fan of as few tags as possible...I think it's a good "test" for a dialogue-heavy scene if you can remove the quotation marks and tags and still have the scene read smoothly. My two cents...and probably worth about half that! ;)

bostonerin said...

My best advice for writing dialogue: listen to people.

You friends, husband, people on the T--everyone has a different way of speaking. Think of the catchphrases they use, the little idioms and word choice. Also, examine your character's background. Is he/she educated? Poor? Wealthy? Where is she from? How old is she? Is she trendy? Dowdy? How does she want people to perceive her? Stuff like that influences the words we choose to say. And how we say them. Does Harold think carefully before he speaks? Or does Susan rush words out without consideration?

One exercise to try: pick a news story out of the Globe or CNN or whatever. Then write a scene where one character explains the story to another. Then, switch perspectives and rewrite it. How does it sound different? What would Susan stress more than Harold? How would they react to it?

Just a thought...

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