A lot of the authors I’ve spoken to over the last year all seem to say the same thing. They hate writing dialogue, which is something I’ve always found odd because writing dialogue is something that comes so easily for me, and I really enjoy it. In fact, most of my first draft in all my writings is mainly dialogue and basic action you might see in a screenplay.
I don’t have a particular method that I use, it just sort of comes out, but I’ve had a couple people over the last few months ask me about it, so I’ll attempt to explain how I write dialogue. First, I’m very much an introvert and tend not to talk much except when I’m with only maybe one or two people. So in larger groups, I listen a lot. I love to listen to people talk, and I think that’s part of why dialogue comes so easy to me.
When I’m writing, I envision the conversations taking place, and I listen to them speak the same as I would in a group of people. Then I just write what I’m hearing, within reason. There are some things said in conversations that don’t translate well to dialogue, such as grunts, groans or other sounds that people might make. Sometimes people might repeat things several times, which wouldn’t be a good thing to do when writing dialogue.
The most important thing, I believe, is to make sure it flows smoothly so readers won’t get caught up on it. Once the dialogue is written, I will read it out loud and pay attention to any areas that don’t sound right, or I get snagged on, and I will keep doing this until it sounds right to me. I usually do this after the first draft is completed, and I’m doing my initial edits before sending my manuscript to my editor.
Like anything else, though, it just takes practice. Part of practicing dialogue is learning how people talk, and the only way to do that is to spend some time listening. If you’re one of those people who has difficulty with writing dialogue, it might benefit you to go somewhere there are a lot of people and just listen to them talk for maybe an hour or so once a week. Bring a book and pretend to be reading, of course, so you don’t freak anyone out. Some good places for this are café’s or fast food restaurants during lunch or dinner times.
Another good way is to just pay attention any time you are out. For instance, when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, just listen to the conversations around you. When you’re window shopping in the mall, find a group of people who are talking and suddenly become interested in something nearby. Don’t worry so much about what they are talking about. It’s more about how they are talking. Listen to the tone of their voices and the differences in speech depending on their moods. Pay attention to phrasing and if you write modern fiction, you might want to get to know some of the popular slang being used.
The more time you spend listening to people, the more natural it will feel to you to write dialogue. So try to do it as often as you can for at least a few months and see if it improves your writing. If you do give it a try, I’d be interested to hear how it works for you, so feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.