Dialogue

First of all… BE REAL.

 

When you’re first getting out that conversation, let it spill. Don’t worry about refining your dialogue yet. Let characters have small talk. Let them go off on what may or may not be a tangent. Don’t worry if someone is repeating or taking too long to explain. Go ahead and use words like “Okay, I suppose, Of course, Anyway, Yes, No, Umm, Well…”

Family watching television, c. 1958

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“Oh, would you mind terribly if I asked you to refill the ice cube tray?”

“Of course, I’d be happy to. It’s not like I have anything else to do. When is that Yankee game over? Maybe we should buy another TV. I’d really like a 46 inch flat screen. I wonder if any are on sale. I’ll go look online.

“Thanks, I really need more ice, so I appreciate it.”

“No, please, not a problem. I love being at your beck and call, especially when I’m missing Top Chef.”

 

THEN GO BACK AND TRIM

 

Almost all those “word stutters” that help get your character talking should be cut. Also get rid of small talk and anything else that isn’t necessary to the story. Go for tight, crisp talk. For the sake of example, I’m going to go to an extreme with my trimming here.

“Will you refill the ice cube tray?’

“Happy to.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”

This is my favorite tip because it’s counter-intuitive. Dialogue sounds more natural if it’s refined down to being unnaturally brief, clean, and distilled.

 

AVOID USING DIRECT NAME REFERENCES

 

“Greg, will you refill the ice cube tray?”

“I’d be happy to, Lisa.”

“Thank you, Greg.”

“Will that be all, Lisa?

“Yes. Oh, and Greg?”

“Yes, Lisa?”

“You’re wonderful. I really mean it.”

“Thank you, Greg. You’re wonderful too.”

Ice cubes in a tray

Image via Wikipedia

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