Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

How I learned to write dialogue

on August 22, 2012

You might not believe this, but writing dialogue used to be one of my biggest weaknesses. Characterization: check, Description: check, Plot: well- mostly check(still working on this one 😉 ). But my dialogue, it was bad, horrible, embarrassing. I found it so hard to write it was non-existent. When it was there it was that info-dump dialogue, not the way anyone talks in real-life.

Then one day, I read something that changed it all: write dialogue like your characters are actually speaking to each other. You are just overhearing what they say- you don’t control it- the scene does, the story does. Some of you might be saying duh, but to me this was an epiphany- the characters talk- its not about what the reader needs to hear.

The difference this made in my writing was HUGE, so HUGE that it was noticed. My dialogue went from horrible and non-existent to being something people thought I excelled at, I even started getting complimented on it- and honestly it was just that one change.

So here’s how I write dialogue. I’ll write between characters back and forth(like a tennis game) without punctuation or anything else and then go back once I have a dialogue skeleton and write the scene. So far this works for me.

I also use this:

I know it looks like a big calculator- but I LOVE THIS MACHINE. Why? Because I can write without reading as I’m writing(key in cranking out dialogue w/out “over-thinking”). Because it’s not as scary as the big white screen, because it takes everything I write and transfers it into Word so I can edit it later :). I think you could also make your Word document super-small on the screen, so all you see is a few lines at a time if you don’t want to buy something new ;).

Any tips that took your writing to the next level?

4 responses to “How I learned to write dialogue

  1. I used to have pages full of dialogue. It was cringe worthy. lol No description, just…talking. lol

    I’m trying to get better at description. I hate writing it. I see how it looks, and what I really want, is for the readers to use their imaginations and see how they see it. Not how I see it. BUT, I’m getting better at the description. It also helps with your word count. 😉

  2. Emmy Neal says:

    I write wonderfully complicated plots and unfortunately too much dialogue. And not necessarily good dialogue. Though I’ve started doing the same kind of thing you’re talking about here–back and forth without writing anything else. It definitely helps the flow though I don’t know if it sounds any more realistic…

  3. Fun post! I really think the key to writing is zoning in on what you DON’T do well and finding ways to both minimize the necessity for that part of writing, and practicing to get better.

  4. mesummer says:

    Great insight! I had a similar epiphany about writing dialogue, but mine involved my excessive watching of television. I noticed that no one ever said goodbye before leaving a conversation or hanging up a phone. LOL I’m sure I had a ridiculous ‘Eureka!’ look on my face when I figured that out. I was such a noob.

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