Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On Dialogue

Once of the things I think I’m pretty good at is dialogue. I was decent at it when I first started writing and I’ve only improved. I can craft voices for characters, I know to make it interesting and relevant, I only use dialogue tags when absolutely necessary. And of course, I remember that dialogue in books never sounds like dialogue in actual conversations.

If there’s one thing to remember, it’s that last point. Have you ever read a transcript of a conversation between two actual people? Let me put it this way: if you tried to pass that off to an editor, you’d get laughed out of his/her office. Ever read Waiting for Godot? Probably one of the more realistic conversations I’ve ever read.

Weird, isn’t it? It’s kind of the same as the rule of believability—namely, that just because something happened in real life, doesn’t mean a reader will by it. The difference between fiction and real life isn’t truth or lies. The difference is that fiction is crafted to make it seem real, not to be real.

Keep that in mind while writing.

So, in the battle of realistic versus believable, which side are you on? Is it possible to meld the two? Heck, is that even necessary?


  1. It's great to have that strength in writing. Sometimes, I feel my dialogue lacks the voice I'm trying to convey.

  2. Dialogue is tricky. It can stand on its own, by the setting created for it. Or. It needs to have some support with atmosphere and movement. It depends.

  3. I love writing dialogue too. It is easier to show who the characters are. Dialogue in writing has to make sense. It can't be choppy or funky like people really talk in real life. Otherwise, it will be totally confusing to the reader.

    Great post!

  4. Will you write my dialog for me? (I like writing dialog, but mine needs serious help.)

  5. I think dialogue can sometimes be realistic, but you just don't have as many pauses and stutters. I think most of all, it should be true to your characters, and that is the most realistic thing of all.

  6. I love writing dialogue, getting into the voice the characters have, and I do agree... in a book it won't have the occasional pauses and ramblings that a person usually has.

  7. It's weird, I don't like writing dialog, but it's often the thing my critique partners compliment me on the most. I do think you have to go for a blend between realistic and believable, since to be believable it has to sound realistic even if it's not actually a transcript.

  8. Given a choice between realistic and believable, I'd pick entertaining and instructive....oops, are we allowed to choose outside the choices? :)

    I agree completely that plays are a wonderful source for learning dialogue. BTW, loved "Waiting for Godot."


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