Character Dialogue

4 Nov

Giving your characters an identity is one of the most important things you must do when writing. But it’s not just in their roles, or how you describe them. It’s how they speak and interact with others.

I spoke before about character bibles. These are the basis for your character, but how do you develop the voice?

Well first you must have that all important well-rounded idea of who they are. Their appearance and personality should then create the voice. The sound in your mind. This will then develop the characters dialogue.

In life, most people you know have little quirks to their speech. Maybe they say ‘crumbs’, when surprised by something they are told. Or perhaps, if they are young they may add ‘like’ to every sentence they use. As a teenager I would be moaned at for saying ‘right’ after everything I said.

These are things you should add to speech. It helps develop the character. But do not over do it. It can become annoying and repetitive. Instead, you should use these as tools to get into your characters mind.

The next step, is how you relay this information to the page. Dialogue should be clear and precise, without unecessary interruptions. For example;

You: ‘Do you take sugar in your tea?’

Me: ‘Ermm, Yes I think i will today. I never used to but I am feeling quite tired so can I just have half?

You: ‘Oh why are you tired?’

Me: You know what my life’s like. Maybe one day I might get a decent night sleep. last night…..’

As you can see, this is not clear, and probably filled with information that will disrupt your reader. An easier option would be;

(You) poured the boiling water from the kettle into the chipped Disney mugs. Without looking up (you) asked, ‘Do you take sugar in your tea?’

(Me) hesitated, shaking her head and smiling, she replied, ‘I’ll be naughty, and just have half.’

(You) reached for the sugar…..

Unless it is part of the story, that the character is tired does not need mentioning. Half a sugar could then just be a quirk of their personality. You will also see that by placing the characters in surroundings the story still moves forward, and creates more flow. How many of us stop what we are doing completely to have a conversation?

Study the books you read. You will see that most keep this sense of flow with their characters dialogue, whilst still maintaining a strong personality.

5 Responses to “Character Dialogue”

  1. submeg October 30, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    Once I have created a back story for each of my characters, I will then have to think about this. It will be tricky!

    • Ellie October 31, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

      From what you say about your extensive planning and depth of thought with your characters, I do believe this will come quite natural – because you KNOW your characters!

  2. djpaterson November 4, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    Good post. Dialogue is always one of the more difficult aspects of writing (IMHO) – keeping a character’s voice consistent, and ensuring each coversation keeps the right rythm and pace is no easy task!

    • Ellie November 4, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

      Everytime I start a new piece, i wobble as soon as my characters start speaking. It always feels awkward. It is then I start to really analyse who my characters are, and before I have even realsied it, the dialogue is flowing and distinct. I definately agree with you, it is one of the more difficult aspects.


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