Dec 23, 2011

The dialogue thing

The dialogue used to be one of the most difficult thing for me when it came to writing. In fact, I detested writing dialogues and instead focused on the scenery or the emotions of my characters. Needless to say, somewhere in the middle of the piece I've been writing I've lost my imagination. I became bored and I would regularly delete everything. That's when my writer's block showed up for the first time, pretty seriously.

Here's why I tried to avoid writing dialogues as much as humanly possible: they were all very fake. I didn't believe in what my characters were saying. They were artificial. I must admit that the idea of such lousy dialogues came from films I used to watch, the ones that I thought to be amazing at first. But when I look at them today I see that the magic has been lost. So I've stopped writing altogether, until I've discovered how to write amazing dialogues.

My aunt was a producer of TV series at the time, and she needed a group of people to write the script. She sent me some test scenes and then she explained why my first version of them were dull.
"The difference between our daily conversations and a catchy dialogue you hear on TV is that our usual, daily conversations have a lot of air between them. And it mustn't be any air on TV"

I'll give you an example of what I mean:

The daily conversation: the two of them meet for a coffee. On of them is upset.
"Are you all right?"
"No, not exactly."
"Why, what happened?"
At that moment a waiter interrupts them.
"What can I get you?"
"Coffee with milk."
"I'll have brandy."
"Wow, that must be something very bad that happened, if you're drinking brandy so early in the morning."
The waiter gives them their order.
"That would be five euros, please."
"Keep the change."
"Thank you."
The waiter leaves.
"Ok, so what happened?"
"I don't know how to say it..."

You see, reading this is boring and distracting. That's the "air" that is really noticeable when it comes to written word. And it should be avoided at any cost. Here is the better version of a dialogue that seems a lot more real.
They meet and one of them, the upset one, reaches for the brandy.
"Wow, you're really upset."
"You have no idea."
"What's wrong?"
"You see, the thing is..."

So, the second example is more real. Paradoxically, the less words you use the more real and interesting is to read. If it makes it more easier for you, play out the beginning in your head and start writing when you get to the point. Generally, nobody likes to read what the waiter has to say unless he's an importan't character in a story.

In the next part I'll write more about dialogues and how to draw out best in them!


  1. Happy new year, i wish you the best love this post!

  2. I love writing dialogue! It has always been my strength as a writer and that's why I became a screenwriter and a playwright. Writing description has always been difficult for me, but the more I have done it, the better I've gotten at it. That's the key: Know your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and work at getting better at your weaknesses.

    1. yes, there definitely has to be a balance between descriptions and dialogues. And both can be very entertaining. That's what makes writing so fascinating to me!