Imagine Person A taking a shower and Person B is in the bathroom sitting on the floor. In the middle of the shower Person A steps out, signals for Person B’s attention, and asks “Do you think I look fat?”
Of course this is not a complete list, so feel free to
((NOTE: Because I’ve seen a couple people comment on this, I thought I’d add that of course you don’t want to change every single “said” to one of these. This is just for inspiration and to help people find a word they might want to use instead! Happy writing!))
Every writer falls into one four categories
of capability. Either they excel at writing description (but not dialogue), at dialogue
(but not description), at both, or at neither.
What I usually find is a person tends to
be in one of the first two categories: either they have great description but
their dialogue is lacking in some capacity, or their dialogue is great but the
description is weak. I tend to fall in the latter category.
Nevertheless, I’m going to be talking all
about dialogue and description, how to fake it if you can’t do one or both, and
how to find a balance between them so that the story flows effortlessly (well,
that’s the hope).
Before I start in, I just want to clarify
that description includes not only of the setting and characters but also of their
actions in scenes, how they move and react as they converse.
Also, as a general rule, if you are
lacking in one or both of these areas (or any part of writing), don’t worry
about it when you’re writing the first draft. Just get it down. Then go back in
after its done, knowing your weaknesses, and revise the hell out of it.
the art of good description: To improve your description writing
skills, read description that you like, from any story or piece of writing.
Really try to break down what exactly you like about it, what they do, where
they put the description, what they don’t describe, etc.
get a photo you like—or better yet, go outside (gasp!)—and try to describe the
scenery, every detail you can. Be excessive, over the top. Just practice
noticing the little details.
make characters feel real: This is fairly obvious. But what may
not be iswhat details should be included. Many writers do the typical hair
and eye color (which I’m guilty of too). This is not a bad thing, but it is
nice to try to move beyond that or at least add to it. In any case, any
description you have of a character, try to use it for more than just a description. It should be incorporated into the story. Think about what details would be
important. Why is it significant that his eyes are blue? Is it because they look
haunting or mystical? Because they affect others or perhaps the main character?
This is just a simple example, but hopefully you get the idea.
conversations: Similar to the description section, it’s
helpful to study good dialogue in stories, noticing everything about it, like
the things being said, what’s not said, and even how it’s being said. Also listen to people converse in real life…Listen
to the way they talk, how they say certain phrases, their tones, facial
expressions, body language. It’s all a part of the dialogue.
To start off, just try writing the same sentence/thought/idea, but have
different people say it. How does it change if someone is shy? Bold? Angry? Bossy?
Now pick one character, and try changing who this person is saying it to. Everyone
speaks differently depending on the person and situation. For instance, if a
character is at work, are they polite and respectful? Formal? Loud and
obnoxious? This will say a lot about them as character, without you having to
everything has to be said: Whether they’re best friends or
enemies, a lot is passed without saying a thing. Maybe two characters are close
and read each other’s minds or finish each other’s sentences. One glance could
equal not only a whole conversation, but also say a ton about the nature of the relationship between the two
characters. Maybe two characters are in the relationship, and it’s clear that
they’re not happy, not because they say
they’re unhappy, but just by their actions and words (or lack thereof). For
instance, if they’re angry at each other, they’ll probably avoid one another
very purposefully and use very short, direct statements. It’s also important to
note that some pieces of dialogue are just filler and can be taken out. For
instance, if you have a scene with a conversation that takes place on a phone,
you don’t want to include the formalities like “Hi.” “Hey.” “How are you?” “I’m
fine…” Etc. That will just bog the story down and add clutter to the writing.
We all know that people don’t just start right into the meaty part of a
conversation. The only instance I can see these formalities being used is if it’s
purposeful and says something about the characters’ relationship. For instance,
maybe they were close, but now it’s awkward as they both clearly don’t know
what to say.
to Balance Description and Dialogue:
of description is important: When it comes to
describing scenery, there are separate paragraphs dedicated to it. Usually the
details are broadly scoped, with a few smaller, significant details. As the characters
move through the scene, smaller and smaller idiosyncrasies should crop up. Sprinkle
them in with the dialogue and movement. When it comes to description of a
person, it’s rare to find a large paragraph dedicated to just the outer appearance.
Maybe a small, flash description (like the first one or two things someone
would notice about the person), with more details sprinkled in as the scene/dialogue
progresses. It’s important to find a balance so that it doesn’t feel like its separate
chunks of description and dialogue. They should mix together a bit in a scene.
point of view can change the balance: If it’s in first person,
there will probably be a bit less description than when writing in third. Most people
don’t think in such detailed descriptions, so it doesn’t feel quite realistic.
Of course, there’s always room for breaking rules. For instance, if the point
of view character is an artist of some sort and that’s part of their
personality to be flowery and excessive in their thoughts and probably their speech
should push the story forward: it’s difficult to truly
know what should be said, what should be described, and what should be perhaps left
out altogether. My piece of advice is that whatever you’re writing, it should
push the storyline forward. Basically, everything has a purpose in the story.
We learn something important to the plot or characters or situation that is relevant.
Of course not everything has to relate to the “main plot”, but it should be relevant in some capacity.
General things to keep in mind:
Conversations will say something about the
relationship of the characters speaking. It just will. What that says can and should
affect the plot, in some way.
The more detailed the description, the
more the reader will think that place/person is significant. If you focus on
it, you’re drawing attention to it.
Read your writing aloud! I can’t stress
this enough. If it sounds/feels awkward. It probably is. Focus on that section,
and work with it. Take your time to figure it out. If you can’t fix it or even
identify those awkward parts, try to get some readers. Preferably not close
friends or family as they can be biased or not what to hurt your feelings.
Everyone has their own style
of writing. It’s not an exact science.
Test styles out. Try a new format.
Experiment with a new point of view. Take the time to find what works for you.
Hope this helped. And I’m happy to answer
any questions or clarify if needed. Happy writing.