How do you even write your dialogues like oh my god they are so witty and in character and fun PLEASE TEACH ME (im kidding ofc well 50% joking but if you have some good advices I would be happy to hear them)
Treat every line as an opportunity for a one-liner or the setup of one.
Okay I will attempt to offer advice but I make no promises on the usefulness, usability or sense-making of any of this.
Background: for my first degree I majored in Film, Television and Media Studies and minored in Linguistics. I like words. This actually has nothing to do with anything I’m going to tell you except that I know how to bullshit so keep that in mind when reading this advice.
- Play it out in your head (if you can). This may be harder to do depending on how you think. If you can’t do it in your head then do it ‘on paper’ but skip all the framing bits like dialogue tags, character names, any kind of description. The only thing that matters is the dialogue. You’ll get better at making voices more distinct and carrying out banter. I like to do this when I’m stuck in traffic.
- Practice writing banter or arguments rather than exposition because they’re easier to get into a rhythm with and sometimes carry themselves easily in a direction you’re not expecting but ends up awesome.
- Write in screenplay or script format for practice. If the entire thing hinges on dialogue you pay a lot more attention to it. If this format is something you hate go back to the first bullet point and do more of that instead.
- Watch tv shows and movies and pay attention to how people speak instead of what they say. I say shows and movies instead of real life (you can do that too though) because they already have the unnecessary fluff we use in everyday life taken out. You don’t want your characters to talk like ‘real’ people, that would get boring. Cut the fluff.
- Study the characters you’re writing and the way they speak. By study I mean read or listen and let your brain do the work while you have fun being entertained. This is the bit that happens to me naturally sorry it’s very ??? in my head. Go back to the first bullet point and do this again for the character.
- If you have more than two characters in a conversation treat it like they have to take turns. Character A & Character B go back and forth, Character C says something, Character B replies and those two talk and A stays out of it. Juggling lots of characters in a conversation is hard, man. I still have trouble.
- Similarly, once you’re at the point that you’re actually writing a scene rather than just witty banter/arguments for the lols, be aware of what your characters are doing and how long the dialogue is dragging out. It can be tempting to keep the dialogue going forever with the witty banter and end up with a ‘talking room’ where characters sit around doing nothing except snipe at each other but it doesn’t really help you move a plot.
I have 700 words of batkids sitting around a table sniping at each other about DnD I know this from experience okay.
- If you get stuck mid-dialogue but know what comes a few lines later type ‘dkjlfjdlkd’ and move on. You can go back later and figure it out, don’t stop the train. We’re dialogue sharks, we stop swimming we die.
- Who cares if it’s in character, write it down, your brain said so. Check it later. That’s what editing is for. You’ll eventually get character voices down and find out your brain is often right about these things. Or justify it for the lols. One of the two.
- Dialogue tags and framing dialogue can take a while to get right. Study other people’s writing that you like and see how they do it. No tags just action >= invisible tags like said or asked > he verbed words. Use replacements for said sparingly and try to think about whether they’re physically possible or not. Laughing a word? Not so much.
- Show don’t tell works for dialogue too.
- ‘Do I really need this comma here?’ Yes. Put it in, move on. You can take it out later if it trips you up on re-reads or when you say it out loud. Also, coming back a few hours/days later for editing helps with flow and ‘can this character actually speak this long without pausing’ type decisions.
- Disregard everything I just said and do what works for you.