With all the frustration, tension, and anger in the online Sherlock fandom following TFP, it occurs to me that when the “I love you” clip broke, I didn’t see a single post on the Sherlolly blogs I follow, that it just had to be Molly that Sherlock was saying I love you to. I know it never even occurred to me, although I quietly, unobtrusively, ship Sherlolly. I’m positing it’s because Sherlollians–when taken as a whole–don’t have that sense of entitlement that is a hallmark of the most insistent proponents of other ship pairings. I like to think Sherlollians are generally as gentle (and as steel-spined) as the woman they fancy as a match for Sherlock Holmes. Just my humble opinion, of course.
How do I make my dialogue seem more authentic and less formulaic?
Hi, anon! Thanks for your question :)
This is a common issue, and one that I’ve been working on in recent years. Improving primarily comes from observation – listening to real-life conversations, watching experienced actors, and even recording your own thoughts/speech/monologues. Writing good dialogue means that you have to analyze and pick apart speech patterns that our brains usually filter out. It’s all about hypervigilance. This is how you collect the tools you need.
Features of Authentic Dialogue
Notice the use of the word “features” – because it’s not just words or phrases that create dialogue you can hear in your head. Speech patterns, interplay between characters, silences, and environmental factors can make a conversation come to life. So when dialogue is sounding stale or formulaic, try some of the following:
Favored terms – The number one thing that really pulls me into dialogue is when I see a character use the same term/phrase a few times throughout the story. That’s how real people speak! We have cliches that we grew up hearing or that stick in our head, and we use them whenever they apply. So build character with this tool.
Delay and “loading” phrases – Formulaic dialogue is made up of straightforward skeleton sentences: “I’m sorry I lied to you. I was scared.” Adding in delay makes time for characters to think, which helps readers hear their voices: “I, uh… I’m sorry, you know. For lying. I guess I was just scared.”
Unfinished thoughts – Some of our thoughts are expressed verbally. Some of them are kept to ourselves. But some of our thoughts stop somewhere in between – we get them halfway out, and we realize we either don’t want to say it or don’t know how. So when it applies, have your characters start to share something (maybe something “dangerous” or personal or out of line) and stop – rephrase. This works especially well in situations of conflict.
Run-ons and fragments – This sounds similar, but it’s different. This isn’t a conscious stopping and going – it’s just normal human grammar mistakes. Writers are so focused on their own grammar that they treat dialogue the same way, which isn’t realistic. So have characters mesh two sentences into one, or express thoughts without a subject + verb structure. It doesn’t make you a bad writer. Don’t worry.
Forgetting words or phrases – This happens to a varying degree with all people. Having a character stop mid-sentence and snap their fingers and ask:
“What is it? When it’s like something that happened, like, because of fate?” “Uh, coincidence?” “No, more like it’s supposed to happen, but it’s still- serendipity. That’s it.”
This can take up valuable page space, though, so only use it when it applies or when your conversation is lacking interactivity.
Shorter speech bursts with action in between – Not all of what a character has to say should be expressed in one long monologue. In fact, it can often be better to write a sentence or two at a time than to write out a whole argument at once. When a character pauses, fill the space with action or internal dialogue. This is best for scenes in which two characters are walking somewhere or engaging in an activity.
Beyond these ideas, though, I have a few extra tips that involve two or more characters. When 2+ people are engaging in a conversation, they are prone to:
Cut each other off – Holy heck, this happens a lot in real life, especially if your characters are both talkative or dominant. Conversation sounds more realistic when your characters aren’t acting like they’re on a debate stage and they aren’t allowed to speak until a light comes on. Even if it’s just cutting off the last word of each other’s sentence, or attempting to interrupt unsuccessfully, give it a shot and see how it amps up a conversation.
Stop listening – Or they never start listening at all. When characters are distracted or in the middle of conflict, they may not hear what each other says – or they may misinterpret. If you need to pace a conversation or increase miscommunication, this is a good way to do it.
Hang on to details – When Character A makes a long statement, Character B doesn’t always listen all the way through – but not always intentionally. People can get caught on certain details in what’s said. For example:
“All I’m saying is that- listen. When two people are in a relationship, they don’t go around behind each other’s backs, okay? Even if it has nothing to do with each other! It’s full disclosure. How would you like it if I did something like that? If I just… looked at you and lied to you? Wouldn’t it bother you? Would you ever look at me and wonder, ‘What if she doesn’t mean that? What if she’s hiding something else?’”
“Is that what this is?” he asked, eyes narrowed playfully. He bit back a smile. “A relationship?”
Get distracted – When two characters talk, they don’t talk in a vacuum – there are environmental factors that stall or accelerate conversation. If two characters are rushing to get dressed for a party, they will speak quickly or rashly. If they’re in line at Subway, they’re thinking about what they want on their sandwich. If they’re driving, they may need to stop talking to figure out which exit they take off the highway. Allow their environment to interact with their conversation, and your scene will feel more immersive.
That’s all the advice I have right now! If you have any other questions, send them in and I’ll respond shortly :) Good luck!
Can y'all do me a favor and follow this rule of thumb: If whatever you gotta say is more than one paragraph long, PUT IT UNDER THE READ MORE I’M SICK OF SCROLLING THRU THESE 56 CHAPTER FAN FICS MAN ITS 2017 WE GOTTA DO BETTER
hey guys!! uhh,, I was wondering if I could ask you all a favor? if you’re following me and see this, more likely than not, you’re into d&d, or at the very least, enjoy other people playing d&d. if any of this sounds like you, may I direct your attention toward two other shows, equally as goofy, hilarious, heart-wrenching as the adventure zone: tabletop adventures and tabletop escapades. if you’ve already heard of these two series or even watched them, feel free to ignore this, but if you have no idea what I’m talking about, hang in there.
basically, tabletop adventures (tta) is a d&d show created by a group of people called gametrailers, who split from a larger company and formed easy allies, who are currently producing tabletop escapades (tte). so, same group of people, and dungeon master (ben moore), different campaigns. tte comes out on youtube every wednesday, and tta is entirely archived for your viewing ease. both campaigns also feature a variety of diverse characters and players, including:
lailia meliamne, canon lesbian elf druid, played by ian hinck (openly nonbinary, any pronouns)
pervince tosscobble, emotional halfling bard, played by elyse willems
andry highhill, fanon lesbian halfling rogue, played by kyle bosman
hogger, reckless orc fighter, played by michael huber
necator, clumsy elf rogue, played by brad ellis
yogalla satarius, old human wizard, played by kyle bosman
law, chaotic dwarf monk // pomper, young dragonborn cleric, played by michael huber
therese brightwood, troubled elf warlock, played by ian hinck
and include lines such as “roll for spit” “where can I find some cat races” and “you can pay me in bread”
so, if this sounds like the kind of chaos you’d be interested in, our fandom is really small but we’re all super excited about and excepting of new members. recently, we’ve been organizing a way to transcribe episodes so deaf/hoh people can watch too! there are a bunch more of these “how to get into easy allies/tta/tte” posts, so if you want to find out more, some good resources include:
THIS IS A CALL OUT POST!!!!! my hand has been forced !!! I’d hate to, but I’mma have to do this, ok so THIS BLOGis not only a Super Talented™ writer but also a sweet ass mun who’s hella cool about my shenanigans &&&ON TOP OF THAT makes all these amazingly beautiful icons like wtf who does that. i’m sorry, but i’m gonna have to vote you OFF THE ISLAND for being too PERF O K
(WARNING: THERE WILL BE VIOLENCE AND SWEAR WORDS.)
Mark walked around in the cold, dark, empty streets of the night, heading to the place he called home. He was too lost in his thoughts to be able to question the emptiness and silence. Usually, there were always people and noise. Mark was so lost, in fact, that he wasn’t able to notice the footsteps getting closer and closer to him. A knife was placed to Mark’s throat and an arm wrapped around his waist. The voice he heard was all too familiar. “Hey, Mark~! Where are you going?” Ethan asked, giggling quietly.
The tone of Ethan’s voice and the way he giggled sent shivers down Mark’s spine. “I-I was just heading home,” Mark nervously stuttered. “Well, will you do me a favor and follow me~?” he asked in the same tone.
“Wh-where to?” Mark asked in response.
“Don’t worry about it~.”
Mark knew better than to follow someone who was acting strange. Especially if it was a close friend like Ethan. “N-no, I won’t.” Ethan frowned in response, even though Mark couldn’t see him. “I guess we’ll have to do this the hard way.”
Before Mark could question him, Ethan knocked him out. Giggling, Ethan dragged Mark out of the streets and into an unknown area.
Once Mark woke up, his first instinct was to move his hands up to his face. When Mark couldn’t move his hand, he noticed he was tied to a chair with his hands tied behind his back. Even though he knew it wouldn’t help, Mark struggled against the restraints. The sound of insane-like giggling filled the room. After some time, Ethan was in front of Mark, his lips formed into a smile. Something about his appearance was… different. That’s when Mark noticed his eyes. Where it should have been white, his eyes were pitch black. As for his eye color, it was red. There was some sort of black liquid coming from his eyes that stained his face. Seeing this made Mark realize that the person in front of him wasn’t Ethan. “Wh-who are you and wh-what do you want f-from m-me?” Mark asked, stuttering.
“You don’t remember me? It’s me! Your friend, Ethan!” The happy tone he used almost made Mark believe it was the truth. It was the exact same tone Ethan always spoke in. But, knowing it wasn’t the truth, Mark shook his head. “Don’t lie to me,” Mark growled. “Who the hell are you and what do you want?”
Ethan stepped back a bit at the sudden change, but chuckled quietly. “To answer your questions, who I am isn’t important. As for what I want, I can’t tell you unless Tyler lets me,” Ethan responded.
Mark froze for a moment. If Tyler was acting the same was as Ethan, then… Only bad things could happen. “How much longer until Tyler gets here?” Mark questioned, watching as Ethan searched for something in his pocket.
“He’ll be here shortly,” Ethan answered, pulling a cloth out of his pocket. As Ethan walked behind Mark and Mark looked down at the floor, another pair of footsteps entered the room. It wasn’t long before Tyler walked into the sight of the blue haired male. “Hey, Tyler! Mark here wants to ask you a question,” Ethan said, grabbing Mark’s hair and forcing him to look up.
“Well, Mark, what’s the question?” Tyler asked, smirking. Mark noticed that Tyler’s eyes were very similar to Ethan’s. Well, that meant neither of them were normal.
“I-I, uh… I just w-wanted to know what you wanted from m-me,” Mark stuttered out, looking at Tyler with complete fear in his eyes.
“You see, Mark, Ethan’s tired of the way you treat him. He hates the fact that you constantly tease him like you do,” Tyler growled.
Mark’s eyes widened a bit at hearing this. “I-I’m sorry. I-I didn’t know it would affect him in that way,” Mark said, beginning to shake.
“Well, how about you tell that to Ethan?”
“Ethan, I’m so- AH!” Mark yelped in pain when Ethan tugged on his hair roughly. “I don’t want to hear your apologies, Mark. I’m fucking sick of it,” Ethan growled in response.
Tyler pulled out a knife while Ethan tied the cloth around Mark’s mouth. Mark began struggling against the restraints, officially going into panic mode. Ethan grabbed Mark’s shoulders to keep him from shaking while Tyler pointed the knife at Mark, a smirk crawling onto his face. As Mark continued trying to struggle, Tyler walked clover to Mark until the tip of the knife was at Mark’s neck. “Ethan, why don’t you do something to Mark~?” Tyler asked, handing the knife to Ethan.
Ethan smirked and took the knife from Tyler. “I would love to~.” Ethan started by gently dragging the knife across Mark’s cheek, causing the black haired male to whimper quietly. Even though he wasn’t drawing very much blood, Ethan was pretty happy to see Mark in at least a little bit of pain.
After awhile, Ethan grew bored and plunged the knife into Mark’s left shoulder. Mark’s eye widened. When he tried to scream, all it did was come out muffled. While Ethan tried to push the knife deeper into Mark’s shoulder, Tyler took out another knife and made cuts all over Mark’s body. Mark started to cry, but all he could do was choke on his own sobs because of the cloth over his mouth.
The two males continued this for awhile before they finally pulled the knives away from Mark. By the time they were done, Mark had tear stains on his face, blood all over him, and he was choking on his own sobs. Ethan began with his insane giggles again while Tyler shook his head, smiling. “We’ll be back to play tomorrow, Mark. Don’t think we’ll let you off so easily~,” Tyler chuckled.
Ethan and Tyler walked out of Mark’s sight, leaving him to sit there and continue choking on his sobs.
(This was inspired by the Tumblr user @caustic-synishade because of artwork they did. I’m so sorry, internet.)
“I hope you like my owl.”
“By day I’m just another loser…but by night I’m even more of a loser.”
“On go, we’re going to kill these two people, ready?”
“She is not the best choice in any scenario.”
“Just do me a favor and follow these spiders.”
“‘Squirrels’ is not an excuse!“
“Wow, Hogwarts is a lot bloodier than I thought it would be.”
“I’m a good-… I’m an okay person, I don’t need this in my life.”
“I’m thinking of starting a kickstarter to put him down, wanna donate?”
“I don’t think that’s a good ide- wow look at him go.”
“Have you been looking at that all day?”
“Well, you’re a bore.”
“I like things that go boom.”
"You make me sick. I love it.”