Thinkin’ on Thursday: Did You Hear THAT?

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Dialogue usually comes fairly easily to me. I was a drama director in Utah’s high schools for 20 years and a debate coach for 20 as well — sometimes both at the same time, sometimes just one or the other. I’ve done a fair amount of acting and have done readers’ theater-type productions which I’ve designed, cast, directed and acted in. Often, with my students. Plus, I like to talk. And I talk a lot.

But I know dialogue’s not as easy for some writers. Here are some things to try to spark your interest in getting dialogue right:

  1. Take an old favorite book. Re-read it now, but only the parts which are dialogue. Even try to ignore the tags like “he said,” etc.
  2. Watch an old familiar movie. With the sound turned off. Make up what they could saying, even if you know it has nothing to do with the plot. If you have a spouse or good friend, do it together, with each of you supplying the dialogue for a different character or characters. (OK — there will probably be a lot of laughing too — but try to concentrate on making the words flow.)
  3. Sit in a food court at the mall, or a restaurant at a busy time of day, like the lunch-hour rush. Try to look like you’re writing a letter or doing homework, but really listen to the broken and half-sentences, interjections (remember? Oh! Wow!  WTF??? — sorry, but you’ll hear that one a lot . . . and worse — etc.) If you can, keep your back turned to a couple or small group; listen and try to imagine what they all look like, what their relationships are, etc. Keep a sharp look – out for people who look, age-wise, etc., like they could “be” your characters.

When you’ve tried these out, write some of them into your current manuscript. Or start a new project with something you “heard” while keeping your ears open. What are the little nuggets you’ve discovered that can help enliven the dialogue between your characters.

Happy Dialoguing! (You’re welcome.)

See you next for Spellbinder Saturday!


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