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Writing conversation


Does any body have any advice for writing conversation between characters?

Sometimes it comes naturally but when it doesn't what's the best way to go about getting something on the page?


Myth Weaver
Write it ugly, and fix later. That is the best way to get something on the page. You may even find that written ugly is not so ugly after all.

I think thins flow easiest when you have an endpoint in mind. If its all free flow, it may wander, and maybe even paint one into a corner.

But....even seemingly vacant conversation still reveals character, and adds immersion. Even if ultimately, I dont keep it, I still keep what I learned from the character to include in other areas of fleshing them out. It just kind of happens.
Dictating rather than writing ? Maybe you could practice speaking out loud, like role playing when you want to make a conversation feel natural.

Mad Swede

Just write it. You can always tidy it up later.

I tend to write the first and last scenes first, then the key scenes in between. And usually I write any conversation in those scenes first. It is bare bones, I add details like tone of voice, facial expression etc later when I add all the other details and connecting scenes.
Like writing any scene, you have to get from point A to point B. In a way it's easier with conversation as the characters speaking ought to have personalities and motivations of which you are deeply aware. Where do they all want to be by the end of the scene?

Always read aloud during editing passes. That helps with everything but especially dialogue.

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Dialogue is just people speaking without the boring parts added. It needs to move the story forward in some way, but otherwise its your characters speaking in their own voices. Have fun with it!


Myth Weaver
Study screenwriting, it's the core of that particular writing discipline. Keywords: Subtext. On the Nose. Talking heads.

I haven't actually read this book, but Dialogue by Robert McKee is bound to be a fine book on the subject, as McKee's other book I read was solid and folks at UCLA mentioned him often. This is despite his goofing on the narrative voice in The Name of the Rose... that was some bad editing, but maybe they corrected it, heh heh.
Know roughly what the point and topic of the conversation is.

This goes for anything in writing by the way. I find that usually when the writing doesn't flow I'm not sure about what to write. Thinking it through helps.

Mad Swede

To add to what some of the others have written. Yes, conversation and dialogue should move the plot forwards. But, conversations are also a wonderful way of developing and giving depth to your characters. Things like their sense of humour, their love and affection, the way they see others. Small talk matters, and you do need some in your stories.


toujours gai, archie
I try to be as close as I can to my characters. If one of them is trying to make a point, I try to feel that. If they are alarmed, I try to feel at least some of that.

As others have said, the best way to get anything on the page is to get something on the page. When I'm doing the initial draft, I often write the lines not only without attributions but without punctuation or any of it. Here, imo, it helps that I'm writing on paper for that first draft. I can use placement, switch between cursive and printing, use a dash or other marks, and generally just roll ahead with as few distractions as possible. When I type it up, that's when it takes proper dialog form.

Study is good. That doesn't get words on page, but eventually it helps get *better* words on page. Toward that end, take out books you like and look particularly at the dialog. Locate something you believe is really good. Try to find something that's just ordinary--or outright poor. Look hard at all your examples. What's good and what isn't? Why? There's much that repays examination, not least of which is to learn how to examine.

BJ Swabb

I practically just write what I hear and see in my head no matter how it goes. Though it may look silly later on. Though most of the time it works out real well. I do a lot of RPG with people as well to help with dialogue and get to know my characters. I actually have a few up if you like to join in the Character Q & A forums.

But yeah, I pretty much write what I see. It's like watching a tv show or movie in my head and then copying it down as it plays out. It's my best tatic. Though I do use an outline as well to keep me on track on how my story goes. Although there are times my movie in my head / and characters takes their own turn and zigzags into the story.
I would find it hard to get into RPG headspace, and would just end up literally being the interviewer instead of playing a sort of character myself, and feeling silly in the process. I’ve done what MadSwede said where he writes the beginning and ending before the rest of the book with one of my projects and that seems to have helped me with figuring out the middle or the muddle…

And I’ve also just written pure dialogue with nothing else, not even punctuation marks, just to try and make it more natural and conversational. If I’m thinking about everything else that can sometimes muddy the waters.