Writing Realistic Dialogue: Language, Structure, and Character | Barbara Vance | Skillshare

Writing Realistic Dialogue: Language, Structure, and Character

Barbara Vance, Author, Illustrator

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14 Lessons (1h 2m) View My Notes
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Impactful Scenes

    • 3. Essential Elements of Dialogue

    • 4. Brevity

    • 5. Dialogue Placement

    • 6. Creating Suspense with Dialogue

    • 7. Speaking "Realistically"

    • 8. The Exposition Dialogue Balance

    • 9. Too much Information!

    • 10. Character Building Through Dialogue

    • 11. Dialogue Odds and Ends

    • 12. Action Supported Dialogue

    • 13. Dialogue Tags

    • 14. Project and Wrap Up

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About This Class


Class Description:

This class is designed to address best practices in writing dialogue. While the focus of the course is on dialogue for novels, it is equally relevant to writers of screenplays and plays.

After watching this course you should better understand:

  1. How dialogue propels your narrative forward and develops your characters
  2. The best ways to write what characters say
  3. How to write action and dialogue tags that enhance and do not distract from what characters are saying
  4. Common dialogue pitfalls and how to avoid them

This class has something for everyone-beginner to intermediate!

There is a handy Dialogue Checklist attachment in the Class Project section that should help you follow along and will be a helpful guide when you are doing your writing.

I definitely recommend trying out the class project; the best way to improve your writing is to write!

Looking forward to seeing what you create!


1. Introduction: Hi, everybody. My name is Barbara Vance. Welcome to this course on writing dialogue. I'm very excited to be doing this topic. This is one that over the years of my working with people in the creative writing, I have found a lot of issue areas that people have and that there are a lot of best practices that very often people don't don't realize especially, I think, because sometimes we assume that the dialogue portion is more natural for us to write because we're in conversation all of the time during the day. The truth is that there are a lot of small things that you can do and quite frankly, should do in your writing to elevated, to make dialogue impactful and interesting and not bogged down. And dialogue does not get getting lost in all of the words that are around it. Dialogue has a very special place in a narrative. It's where the author most gets out of the way and just let the characters speak and talk. And technically, that's not true, of course, because you're structuring everything around and you're saying, Oh, they moved here or what have you, But it's really where you just literally, you give voice to your characters in a way that doesn't happen. Other places. So it's an point of immediacy for the people reading your novel to really hyper connect with your characters. So your dialogue scenes critical, they matter a great deal, and you want to make sure that you're setting them up in a way that gives them the weight that they deserve in your narratively, the importance of that weight. But that also is is light in its movement because dialogue really helps story go. It's very action oriented piece of your story, so it's a way of balancing this significant weight of it with the forward propulsion that it provides. And that can be a delicate balance. And it's incredible, actually. How just a single word can slow your dialogue down or take from it some of that impact that it's supposed to have within this class. We're going to be looking at dialogue from three primary angles. We're going to look dialogue in terms of how it serves the narrative. Why is it there? What is it's function? Then we're going to look at dialogue from It's a substantive point of view, so what is being said and how is it being said? So the dialogue itself, the in quotes portion going to look at that? Then we're going to look at what surrounds your dialogue tags that are used like said or thought explained. So your tags or the action happening around your dialogue? So how does he dialogue function? And so the narrative. Let's then talk about the dialogue itself in. And let's look at everything surrounding the dialogue that helps it to exist in its place in your narrative. This course is, I would say, good for anyone wanting to write dialogue, whether it's screenplay or novel or any of those things. It is in some ways directed more somebody who wants to write in a novel format, especially when you get to the end and you're looking at two tags because screenplays won't have those. But everything up to that point certainly for sure, is as helpful for screenplay writers as it is for novelists. And I think even the section on tax if you are a screenplay writer, I wouldn't skip that section because while you will not necessarily write the words said or something, um or even the actions taking place. As a screenplay writer, you will be thinking about the actions that are happening. So they will say that that section does still come to bear if you're writing screenplays or plays. So that's what going to be looking at in this class. I hope that's of interest. Let's start the first section. 2. Impactful Scenes: There are many things we could say about dialogue throughout this course. In fact, if you've watched my other courses, you know that I'm a firm believer that you do not put something in your narrative without giving it full weight and great consideration that it deserves to be there. Everything you put into your story you have to fight. To put that in your story, you have to know exactly why it deserves to be there. It cannot be fluff. No conversation can be added to your narrative for the sake of adding it. Because what happens is every time you add a sentence a seen a word to your text that isn't necessary, it sucks the power out of other things that are important. It takes power away from them. Think about it like this. A lady's high heeled shoe. It doesn't matter if you have never won a high heeled shoe. But if you think about high heeled shoe right, think of one that has a really tiny little hell. It's very high heel and it comes to a a small little point of the bottom, right, and then you have a hell that has a broad hell, so it's the same height, but it's quite broad. It covers more area now. If you were, if the lady were to step on your foot with her heels, which one is going to hurt more than really narrow Hume or the really broad heal the really narrow hell right, because all of that weight off her body that she is pressing on you is confined to this one tiny little point rather than being greatly dispersed out. The same thing is true of your text. If you have three scenes of dialogue and two don't really tell you very much, and then one is actually very powerful because you have spread that dialogue out over these three scenes to which are not impactful. That's more like a broad. He'll stepping on your toe because there's this much dialogue, but this much of it it had any value. So there's all this extra stuff. This doesn't need it, so it ends up having less of an impact. If you just have one truly powerful scene, you have this much text. But combined in this much text is exactly the same amount of power, so it hits the reader very hard, they take it in. So again, if you have a lot of text, this much text but this much power that is dissipated this all this empty text has dissipated this power. So choose your scenes wisely. Choose your words wisely. Why should this scene be dialogue? You need to ask yourself that. Why do I do this scene in dialogue Now I have to say Don't paralyze yourself with your writing because we don't all sit down and we're writing And then you say, OK, let me stop and have a breather moment. Think about whether this scene needs dialogue. That's that's not realistic. People don't really do that. Um, not that I know of. You might in your head envision certain scenes is dialogue or not, But often times it's just kind of when you're initially riding. In my experience and the experience of my students, it's just kind of coming out in a lot of ways, not necessarily planning for when there will be dialogue. But when you go back and you start to assess that writing and assess what you've done, what you will find are there many scenes in which you say I don't know that I need that scene or I don't know that I need that conversation. That's when you ask those questions. What's the function of that conversation? Why is it there that that's when you do it is often in the re reading and in the rewriting that not necessarily in that first right. So don't don't that any of this course paralyze you from just getting your story out, because you need to get the words on the page so that you can then shape them into something. 3. Essential Elements of Dialogue: When it comes to a scene and dialogue and you're assessing what you've written, there are three things that ever seen should more or less provide every dialogue scene should more or less provide. And if you don't have all three, then that's worth looking at and saying Either I need to add something here or this scene doesn't really matter and isn't really necessary to my narrative. So the first thing is that dialogue should push the narrative forward. Everything in your story should push the narrative forward everything in your story that the ending narrative and the characters their their king there, too little mutual kings and they each serve each other. But your dialogue has to push that narrative forward. If I get to the end of your dialogue and I'm no closer to the climax of the narrative that when I started the dialogue, then it was just sort of an exercise in just chatty chat chat. And that's not helpful. I need to feel like I'm moving four words. Having a dialogue scene in what you're just saying, Well, I'm just establishing that Marry and Joe are friends, So if this isn't really about pushing the plot forward. Yet we haven't really hit the major conflict yet, Barbara. Right now, I'm just trying to establish the friendship. I get the argument, but your friends, you can establish that friendship while setting the groundwork for the narrative and pushing the narrative a long your two friends going to talk about a lot of different things . Among those things will be topics Jermaine to your conflict to your plot and everything else. So don't have them talk about the fire truck that went by yesterday or the test that didn't go well. If that's not Jermaine to the narrative, pick the things that are always remember that your readers, when they are reading your book, the information you give them. They're saying, Why is this relevant? Why does this matter? They're thinking that constantly you're going to lead them astray If you have things that are not serving the story being discussed to make sure your dialogue push that narrative forward. Number two. You dialogue should reveal something about the characters again. Narrative story characters. These are your two things. So not only should I leave that dialogue scene going, okay? We're moving forward. I should know something more about the characters in it. I should know something about how they feel or something about their behavior or something about their intention. I should leave knowing Maura about your protagonist or his or a friend, etcetera, and I did when it started to get back to what I just said. Be strategic about what you tell me about them. Don't waste a dialogue scene telling me something about your character that isn't relevant to the plot. Pick the characteristics and those revelations that they're going to help lead it forward. So push the plot forward reveals something about your character. And third, something about the relationship between those two characters. If you're dialogue, scene does nothing more than tell me about one of the characters. Then what was the point of the interaction? All you were going to do and all you cared about was to tell me about one character. Why did you have them interacting with this other one? This does not mean that your characters can only interact with other characters of significant weight in the story. Absolutely, your characters might very well interact with other characters that do not have a lot of significance that are fleeting. There, there, and then they're gone. That's all right. But there was still even momentarily, a relationship happening there, and that's going to matter. I'll give you an example. It's easy for us to say OK, Step established the relationship between my protagonist and his brother, who is basically the second main character, right? It's easy for us to say, Well, yes, of course. That's an important relationship in the narrative. We need to establish this. But what about the relationship between your protagonist, who just goes into a restaurant to pick up his take out? Has a very brief interaction with the waitress who checks him out and he takes his take out and he leaves. Is that relationship important? It should be because what is the relationship we're looking at? So say they do that to say it's important they go in. It's pushing the narrative forward. It matters that he went and got this food that he picked up at the restaurant, and he's very root to the waitress. And we know, because of the way that this has been set up for us, that this isn't just Joe Snow stressed and rude he's like this. He looks down on, said Waitress. And he's rude to her. So what we're seeing here is we might learn several things about the main character throughout this scene, whether it's what he likes to eat or how he behaves, or that he won't touch the handles on the door because his O. C. D. So he's using his elbow to open the door so you could learn all kinds of things about him. But when it comes to that relationship, what are we learning? We are learning that Joe is pompous. He's a bit stuck up. He thinks he's better than the waitress. Why does he think he's better than the wagers? Don't just say, oh, giving suspected in the waitress. Why? Because he makes more money because she's working at a restaurant as waitress and he drove up and parked in his BMW, and he's wearing his nice suits, and he's picked it up. And this woman could not possibly be as good as he is because she is a waitress that's telling us something about his relationship with people of a certain class, as he has identified it. Still, a relationship being discussed except that in that case with the sort of momentarily present characters and then gone, it's less about the relationship between two specific people. And it's more about the relationship between the protagonist in this case and the waitress as a as a metaphor as a proxy for a larger group of people with which he interacts, if that makes sense. So even when you have your main character interacting with someone in a fleeting way, a nameless person in your story you're building and telling us something about some kind of relationship always keep that in mind and know what it is. And when you do that, it's going to make you say, What are the relationships that are most important for me to establish? Is it most important for me to establish that Joe is really pompous? Is that worth a dialogue scene? It might not be, you might decide. Yes, that's important that Joe does that, but I could really. I've already shown not over here in action, so shouldn't waste dialogue on it or yes, that's important. But I actually think it's more important that people know that Joe is this other thing, in which case I'm going to emphasize that piece of it and I might have him interacting with someone else or I might focus on his interaction in a different way. Then I waas so you. So you want to constantly make sure you have the answers to these three questions. How is it pushing the narrative forward? What is it revealing about the character? What is it revealing about the relationships between the characters in the dialogue? Those three things should really matter. 4. Brevity: Now that we've looked at three main things that you should really be looking at in all of your dialogue, I'd like to get into some specifics about the content of that dialogue. Everything that I'm going to talk about now for this section are things that I have seen people struggle with in their own writing. So I'm trying to troubleshoot and address these things I have made for you on a highly recommend downloading it little check list so that you have that in. This checklist is going to go through the things that we've talked about here, and it's going to be something that you can. Then, when you're editing your own writing, sort of read your dialogue and see by doing any of these things. Is my dialogue doing any of these issues? Or is my dialogue getting these proper points? So there is for you that dialogue checklist? I do hope you'll download it. It's enormously helpful, Even downloading it now. You could sort of follow along with the course, so that's helpful as well. Having said that, let's get started and I'd like us to look at dialogue in terms of its space in the narrative. Brevity is key. This goes back to what I was saying a few minutes ago about the ladies. He'll fewer words. MAWR impact When you think about poetry, poetry often doesn't have terribly many words, especially compared to a novel or something like that. But that means that the words in the poem matters so much. There's so much power in those words. Think of your dialogue as that. Think of your dialogue not just in terms of the content that you want conveyed, but this space that it's taking up in your narrative. No, all of these are not hard and fast rules. These are guidelines to keep that in mind. But very often when you think about a scene of dialogue could be very difficult if that scene goes on and on and on, particularly because your reader can actually get lost in who's having the conversation. We want to have those conversations, but if they go on for so long, we tend to get dialogue, fatigue unless we are expecting to only read dialogue because we're reading a screenplay or reading Lee a play or something like that. But in a novel you really want to balance. You want to balance that exposition with your dialogue, so you have to think about how do I do that? So when you think about brevity, when you're going to put that dialogue into your novel, you want it to not go on and on and on before we get back to exposition. Your novel might be very dialogue heavy, and that's all right, because everybody has his or her own style. So this isn't me saying don't have a dialogue heavy novel. It's me saying, Don't let one conversation go on and on and on. You will fatigue your readers and they might very well get lost and then have to go back and sort out who is saying what. So when you choose those dialogue moments, you want to think carefully about saying exactly what it is that needs to be said and gnome or and we'll look at some of the things that people tend to add in. That's not that are not necessary, but keep it brief. Keep it too. It really matters when you do those dialogue scenes, and then they will be very, very powerful 5. Dialogue Placement: one thing that's very important when you're thinking about changes and you think about placement of dialogue in a narrative, you're going to be alternating between exposition and dialogue. Exposition dialogue change signals to people to pay attention. It's a way in which we draw someone's focus. This is true of a myriad of art forms in fashion when you have a dress and say the dresses all white is something else is going to have to draw a person's attention to a specific port of that dress. But if you have a dress that's white on top, and then at the waste, it turns and goes to a black fabric where it's my I going to go. It's going to go where the white fabric meets the black fabric because that's where the change is happening. So when we when our eyes, our ears perceive it change, we perk up. If it's quiet outside and suddenly we hear a noise change and we've picked up. If it's noisy outside and it gets quiet, here we go. What's going up? So change matters. What this means is that when you're going along an exposition and you say, but here's some dialog. We're going to go, Oh, we're going to focus in So dialogue signals to your readers pay attention. Obviously, one thing to pay attention to everything you write, but dialogue says no, really pay attention. This is an important moment. This is an impactful moment. I'm picking the I'm picking the deep moments, the key moments, the moments where I'm going to get his role and is really about my character as I can. I'm gonna put those into dialogue, pay attention, and people are going to poke up. So it's a powerful place in your story, and you want to make sure that you're keeping it that way. 6. Creating Suspense with Dialogue: So that's look at the next thing that we conduce dialogue for in our novel. And that would be creating a sense of suspense, creating suspense in your story. Often when we talk about dialog, we're talking about what we should be putting into our story and in general, quite frankly, when we talk about narratives were talking about what do you put in? But it's just as important as what is left out, and those decisions of what is being left out matter just as much as what you're putting in . It is human nature for us to not say everything that we are thinking or feeling that we keep things to ourselves, Scooby, for a variety of reasons. But when a reader knows that something is being left out, our senses break up. We start to ask a lot of questions. You can introduce so much speculation on the part of your reader simply by having them know something and then letting them watch as your character doesn't let another character. No, it is a very powerful thing to do. There will be lots of things you choose as an author to leave out of your stories that your readers are gonna have no idea that you've left out, and that's terribly important that you're making those executive decisions as the creator of your work. But when you think strategically about to dialogue and you know I want this scene between this husband and his wife in my narrative, therefore I'm going to set up the power of that scene over here before it happens, said that when we get to it, we have the most power possible. Let's look at an example. Let's say James comes home from work. His wife is a stay home mom. One little one at home, one year old and he comes home from work. She asks him, How was your day? And he says, Though it was fine, anything big happened? No. Same old, same old. I talked to Peter. He seems happy with the reports. So well done, I guess. Here, let me take the baby. I'll put her down. I'll change her. You've done enough for the day. His wife's making supper. Small interaction probably would go on a bit longer, but that's all that we need. Say that's what happened. Okay. Might learn from that that he is seems very caring for his wife. He doesn't seem terribly excited about his job. His wife seemed interested in his work. Okay, but let's take it back The scenes before that James is at work, and unexpectedly, he gets cold in and it gets promotion, a promotion he wasn't expecting. And this is very interesting to James because we know something about James that his wife doesn't know. And that is that James, feeling a bit bored with his life, cheated on his wife with a lady he met casually, and he's rendezvous to with this woman now, a few times, he's very uncomfortable with this. Up until the point that James did this, he had what anyone would say is a happy marriage and a good wife in a beautiful child and no reason at all why he should want to stray. And he feels guilty about it. But nonetheless he did. He strayed not just once several times with the same woman, and he can't help himself in the sense that he wants to, even though he doesn't want to, and he feels terrible. He feels like an awful person, and right before he got this promotion by the way he had resolved he had been in conflict. Do you end this or don't you? Do you end this affair or not? So we're watching James have this conflict, and we ask ourselves, Is James stressed about this because he's genuinely stressed about it? Is he stressed about it because he's afraid he'll get caught? Or is he stressed about it because his mistress wants him to buy her nice things and take tonight's restaurants? And James knows that even though he is the person who handles the accounts at home, at some point you buy enough expensive suppers or piece of jewelry here or there, and there won't be money there for the things that his wife is expecting there to be money for. So James is stressed out, and he resolves without the right to telling us why I'm going to end this. I'm going to end this. But then he gets a promotion, and the promotion is significant in terms of its monetary reward. And now James is starting to think about his mistress again. Because now what if I didn't tell my wife about the promotion I'm in charge of the accounts , she just looked at those things, she wouldn't know. I could go to the nice suppers. I could even go on that holiday that my mistress wants me to go on the road trip. My wife would never know. This might be the perfect answer, and yet he still feels very guilty. He knows it's not right. What's he going to do? What's he going to do? And then we get to the scene where James tells his wife, Nothing exciting happened. There's a lot of suspense there. We've built up to that suspensive that scene. What's James going to tell her, then? When James doesn't tell her now what what happens now? It tells us so much that he didn't say everything. You can create those scenes as much by what you leave out as by what you put in. So think carefully about that. Is this a dialogue scene that has both omission as well as things in it? Are there ways that you can create suspense? Great dialogue doesn't just leave me with answers. It leaves me leaving that conversation with more questions. What now? That should be an exciting thing that your readers are thinking after they've read that. So keep that question in mind for yourself, 7. Speaking "Realistically": This next section is about the specifics of how people talk, and it's a biggy because there is a fine little tight rope that we walk when we try to make our characters speak in a realistic way. And the truth is that when you're writing dialogue, you both want your character to speak the way people actually do. Speak and you don't. What do I mean? People do not speak constantly in beautiful, well crafted, complete sentences that are grammatically pristine and use wonderful words. If your characters have every sentence as these formed long complete sentences, it doesn't read very true. We speak in snippets. How you doing? She asked. Fine. Wait a minute, she said. That's not it. If I say to you, Charles ID like a blueberry muffin, please. And if you could please put it on a platter with the nice edging on it, I would really appreciate it. Something. People don't necessarily speak that way, but it's far more likely that I'm going to say something like Charles, could you grab me a blueberry muffin? Oh, the blue Blatter, please. I mean, we speak in the chunks, so don't feel like everything has to be a formal sentence. Unfortunately, people can take this too far. And the thing that you don't want to do is add to your dialogue. The likes, you knows, comes that are peppered. Unfortunately, through people's speech, how was school today? Ah, it was, you know, about the same as always. That's not more powerful than how was school today. Same as always. To give that to the shoe. Your likes, your nose, us. Those are extra words you're throwing into your dialogue that slow it down. They're additives that don't help you. Sentence fragments. Yes. We talkin sentence fragments. Those are fine. But all those little, um, you know, those are not helpful. Don't put those in your writing. They do not make it better. Second important point about what people say. People often don't say what they mean, and they don't mean what they say when you have scenes where your character says something that we know isn't true. Like the gentleman cheating on his wife that seems realistic to us. That creates suspense. But there are other ways in which a character behaves and tooth ethical to what he or she says toe where the what is coming out of someone's mouth doesn't match their actions, and it won't always be a suspense issue. It could just be that we're learning something about the character. If Mary says, I love my sister, she's my favorite person. And yet we see Mary consistently, not help her sister when she could. Then we have to say I, the Mary's has a wrong impression off herself, or there's a reason that she's saying this right now, so that calls into question things about Mary that we then have to learn about and to figure out. So sometimes we know something about the character than that dialogue reveals something mawr. Sometimes we have dialogue and actions that are going to happen. We'll will help bring to bear the conflict that's happening at hand. What gets on interesting is if your characters always speak exactly how they feel. If dialogue and action line up all of the time, because that's just not true for any of us. If you've watched my other course on conflict, we will have conflict in our lives. We all have different things we desire. We all say things that we don't mean we not even in a malicious way. It's just things that we do, whether somebody's like, Oh, would you like to come up with coffee and you say, Oh, no, I can't I have to work and you really have to work You just don't really want to go for coffee or some of this How are you feeling today? And you've just had a root canal and you say Fine People are always saying things different than how they feel, so that's normal. If everything is true blue throughout, then it feels like there's less. We have to learn about your character because you're really telling us everything, either through exposition or action. It's being reinforced through dialogue, so there's no no mystery there, and we don't necessarily see that internal conflict. To think very carefully about your couch is also saying what they mean, meaning what they say and the truth being that we don't have to do that 8. The Exposition Dialogue Balance: one final thing about dialogue as it pertains to a narrative. This goes three idea of the balance. How much of my narrative should be dialogue? How much of my narrative should be exposition? This is up to you. This depends on your writing style, and it's up to you to find what that is. But just know the functions off each of those things. Dialogue done right more often than not, speeds the narrative up because you don't have a lot of complete sentences. It's very fast paced. Exposition tends to slow things down, which is supporting the portly. Why you want that? That that balance happy, too. But think about that. When you're doing it, it's OK. If you want more dialogue scenes than not, it's okay if you tend to be someone who likes more exposition. But think about be pacing off the dialogue and they function that it serves. You're in a really high action scene. Dialogue can feel faster if you're looking for someone to kind of slow down and think about things that can be a great place for exposition. 9. Too much Information!: Let's move on now to the actual content of dialogue. What specifically being said And how is it being set? All right. My first piece of advice in dialogue substance is to avoid small talk. This goes back to what I was saying earlier about being very intentional about what you choose to actually make dialogue. Don't just do unnecessary small talk. Make your conversations quite Jemaine. A lot of times people are thinking, How do I get to the meat of it? Well, I need to have this sort of chatty stuff in the middle there somewhere so that it seems realistic. Oh, something in my eye. You don't need that. You don't need that focus in. Remember that as an author you're really taking a magnifying glass near putting it around different places at different events that are happening. Your story has all sorts of events in it that I'm never going to know. You're showing me what's relevant so that small talks not relevant, get rid of it. Second piece of advice. This one happens a lot. I think actually, I might even see this happen. More screenplay writing, then not screams. I writers. I think you're more guilty of this than novelists, information dumping and dialogue. And I think screenplay writers tend to be worse about it because they do not have exposition in which to relay other pizzas information. So they're feeling like they have to constantly get all of that out in the dialogue itself . I think authors tend to feel like they can't have exposition. It gives a back story or something, or they're trying to come up with an edgy or interesting way to tell backstory. So you have two sisters and there's something going on. There's a house that is mysteriously boarded up and you've just moved into town and you're wondering why it's boarded up. And so you go to this coffee and you're chatting with this woman and she starts to go. Well, let me tell you, when I was a little girl, probable, probable. And we're going to get a lot of that backstory through her dialogue because that's more interesting. Seemingly that's really often not the case. The information dumping absolutely doesn't help you. It is most egregious when, as an author you're trying to hit home thesis um Bolic, meaning of your story information dumping is often where you will see someone try to reveal all of these symbols that she or he has put into his their story or they are just letting loose on their feelings. It is where authors are trying to make sure that you know everything that they've been doing their best to slowly revealed throughout the course of the narrative. It's a killer for a story. Don't treat your readers like they can't put the pieces together. Build your symbolism, Build your back story. Build your meaning. Build your emotion the right way, a slow way throughout your story. Do not use dialogue as a crutch in which you're going to just throw all of that meat at me . Of course, you're going to have times where certain things need to be explained. But don't explain all your symbolism anywhere but back, storing things like that. Generally speaking, much better not to be said in dialogue, even if your character goes and sits down and has tea with the old woman who knows about the story of the house, and she's going to tell you the story of the house more often than not better to have the the narrative read like you know, she SATs during the tea and related the story of the house. How ELISA had died there when she was three. How her mother hadn't been able to recover from it, had come down with pneumonia and passed three weeks later. And then how her father had boarded it up big slabs across the doors and no one could get in, packed his bag and left. Now the old woman told an hour to that. But we didn't hear the old woman tell men our to that the narrator is telling us, the old woman told her, And then she tells us, and that's generally a more interesting way, because again, it leaves your dialogue for the impactful and punchy scenes. 10. Character Building Through Dialogue: The next thing is to be consistent with your characters. If you've built a character who is really sweet and kind and whatnot, then in dialogue, she's not going to suddenly be sarcastic unless you really want her to be specifically there for a reason. Make sure that the way that a character speaks is consistent with her beliefs and behaviors . Just try to keep that consistency there. Which brings me to my next point, which is give everybody a unique voice if you take away all the tags and all the different characters. And I'm just reading the dialogue and I cant tell Joseph that Mary said that Abbas said that if everybody sounds the same, your dialogue isn't very strong because we don't all sound the same. And very often we know in people in our lives we know when we hear something that's totally something you would say. Everybody said that someone I heard that that's something you would say because we know that person. We know how they speak. Give your characters that we should be able to know that something he would say. But if your characters all speak in the same way, that's not going to happen. One of the ways that you can give those different voices to your characters is to look at word choice. So just is someone more casual with the words that they used? They say things like, Yeah or Ah huh, Or are they more formal with how they speak? I'd be glad to. You know, someone else might see if I say thank you. One character might say Sure, and one character might say, You're welcome or my pleasure. So think about the actual word choices, because that can often be a way in which you convey the different characters, emotions and their personalities. So you really want to be true to your couch? Personalities won't be true to your characters. Age don't have someone who's eight years old, be too sophisticated mentally, unless there's some sort of Prodigy Children and there should be a whole course on Children . You can write Children very wise. I'm not saying don't write Children wise, but I am say, be consistent with the age, be consistent with the demographic, be consistent with the background they've been raised with with the kind of person that they are with their outlook on life. You want that consistency when you're thinking about consistency. It is also important to think about consistency, given the inconsistencies in our behaviors. We all have inconsistent behaviors. And so I might be very formal and one way around, the people at work and then around my best friends at home, I'm a different me. I'm consistently one with my friends. I'm consistently one with my business people, but that person actually behaves a bit different between the two. It's okay. Me. You don't necessarily need your your character to be exactly the same with every person because that's not consistent. That's not really so. You can show the discrepancies of behavior situational e or depending on the people were with. But be consistent in that. And let me know that those are consistent inconsistencies if I only see a character act away at work one time, and I see her act is other way with her friends. All the other times, I haven't necessarily seen her interact with people at work enough to have it resolved in me that she does actually speak in these two different ways, so you want to establish the consistency on each side that we understand that nuance of behavior when it comes to the writing of the dialogue itself. Try to give it to ballots again. You don't want an information dump and an information dump. You can spot them a mile away because one character talks for a really long time without the other one talking. Most people don't get to talk that long without someone interrupting them, so you want to kind of balance something. It's fine of one character speaks Mawr in the conversation, but what they have to say will should be broken up with the other person's. That actually does, in fact, feel like a conversation so established for yourself. What is the balance of that dialogue scene that we're reading in terms of how much one person talks and then not letting one person sort of have this soliloquy that goes on and on and on and on and on because that ends up being an information dump on the set, sort of automatically part of the style of the writing you're doing, say, Shakespeare or something like that, where you would have a son of the Queen, but in general, especially narrative, you're not going to have things like that 11. Dialogue Odds and Ends: finally, a few odds and ends of things that I see people doing that are not necessarily helpful. Don't feel like you have to enter and exit every conversation with hello and a goodbye. It is perfectly fine to enter the conversation midstream. You can easily start your scene with, you know, marry Annelise walking along the park and then just put we start the conversation. You do not need the hellos. Goodbyes is not necessary unless we're learning something from this hellos and goodbyes. To that end, please don't feel like you have to enter every detail of a conversation. We don't have to hear every little thing that they say. Make it tight, make it solid. Don't give me excess information that I don't need When we Actually, if you were to record a conversation and then play it back, they would actually be a lot of little mundane details in it that are not helpful. Things that get added in things that are just sort of here or there, I might say. Oh, I saw the most amazing picture the other day, and no, I might say I saw the most beautiful sunset yesterday. You should have been there. I was at the park and it was, and my friend might interrupting. Go always at the one over on Fifth Street. Yes, I don't need the oh. Is that the one over on history that's not going to help me? Unless that's Jermaine. Somehow pull that out. All those little interruptions. Those don't help. So just try to keep it to what is core. Don't put in those excessive details. The last thing I would say is names you don't have to name drop. I don't have to say Hello, Alice. Oh, thank you, Marry. That's lovely, Joe. I don't need any of those name drops. We do not need those in our dialogue. We do not speak that way. Don't add that to your die hawk. I hope that sections helpful. It's a lot. It's over in the sense that I feel like it's negative. I'm saying, Don't do this and don't do this. Don't do this. But these are the things that I'm seeing repeatedly that people doing that really do make their dialogue less impactful. This final section is about what's around our dialogue, what's happening textually and with words surrounding the things that are in quotes 12. Action Supported Dialogue: So you're riding a dialogue and you want to describe to your readers the emotions with that dialogue had a feeling our the words said all of those other things that are sort of added benefits perceived that you want to include in your writing very often, these things can slow us down. Don't feel like you have to explain to me the dialogue itself. It's much better for the words that you choose your character to speak, to be so powerful that you don't need a lot of textual explanation after it. For example, if I say don't do that, she cried and happening. Do we really need the unhappily? Don't do that. We know she's unhappy. Don't say on happily. You don't need to make it extra clear for your readers. Those unhappy lease those adverbs don't help you. Generally speaking, if you start to see your dialogue peppered with adverbs along those little L Y words, unhappily, gladly, joyfully. Those don't help you take the whole out. Let your dialogue stand on its own. And if what's being said, it isn't clear how it is meant. There other ways to fix that, namely, be changing what is said, or having an action based around it. That tells us something. That's a good example. What do you think of the drawing? I like it, she said. No, we could say I like it, she said. She beamed and held it up. What do you think of my picture? Margaret Photo Brow. It's nice. Sure, it's a bit different, So there are things that you can do to tell me more about what's being said if you feel it's necessary. But if a statement says Stop it, she cried on happily, We know she's not happy. Don't use those adverbs, No adverbs. The next thing I would say is really goes off the lines of something you've heard a 1,000,000 times. Writing, which is show don't tell you don't want your character saying I'm so happy or this really upsets me, Dan. That's often not how it's said. Often it's through showing us things. Dialogue is not an excuse to be a lazy writer, and often it feels like that's what we're doing when someone says I'm really happy. That's not information dump, but it's sort of like brief information dump, because we just don't talk that way. Most of the time. Sometimes we do. I've been known to say I'm really happy, but in general that's not how we speak. More likely rather than Sarah saying, I'm really happy Sour is going to give Joe a big hug. Thank you, she said. That tells us she's happy. Let me decide she's happy. Let me think. These things for myself, is your reader. If you're going to just tell me everything that isn't an engaging narrative, I want to figure things out. I want to get to know someone. The beauty of a relationship that person in our real lives is that we learn that person. Nobody comes with a nifty little tack that tells exactly what they're thinking, what they're feeling and everything about them ahead of time so that we know it all. It doesn't happen that way, Nor would we watch it, too, although sometimes we might wish we wanted it to. We don't really want that right, because we learn those things as we go. Let your readers do that with your characters, which they cannot do if you're going to have your characters just say everything like that in their dialogue, which means really taking advantage of action. Take advantage of action. Use action, use body language. Use a furrowed brow are curled over shoulders or a pouting lips or binding lip or whatever . Use those things when you're thinking about dialogue. Don't just think about the language. Think about the body language as well that physicality off what's happening to your characters body that will help you to have them. Not necessarily. Just say exactly how they feel to that end. When you're thinking about action and you're thinking about body language, be interesting with it. Don't necessarily just pick something that seems obvious. You Sandy gave a big smile, right? Or Mildred frowned. Let's say we have a scene and Alice has come home from school, and her mother has said Mother has a report card, and Alice has a B, just all A's and one B in chemistry. Alice walked to the door. Her mother was at the counter. She wasn't smiling. As dropped backpack on the ground. She picked up one of the cookies on the table, put half of it in her mouth. Her mother looked up. Your report card cane. How this is stomach sank. She knew this was coming, so she didn't know why she felt such dread. But nonetheless, no matter how much she prepared for it, here it waas. She said nothing. What happened with chemistry? Her mother had stopped wiping down the counter. I was staring at her with her cool blue eyes. Alice looked down at the crumbs on the table. She moved them one by one, into a little line. I don't know, she said. Do you see how that actions more interesting? Alice frowned, Alice. I mean, I can so much more see a young girl sitting there, not paying attention to her mother and knowing that this thing is coming. She knows she got the being chemistry. She knows someone's gonna call her on this. And she knew the report card was coming in the mail. She just know what day. So here it is. She doesn't want to face her mother. She doesn't want to talk about it. She probably doesn't think it's fair that you got all A's and one B, and here we go. And so she's just it's It's his avoidance. I don't want to face it. I don't want to look at my mother so I'm looking at the cookie crumbs on the counter and I'm moving them into a row. That is such a new, interesting way to say she didn't want to look at her mother. She didn't want to face this. That's really strong action. So be creative with your action and what's happening around the dialogue. You're speaking your characters speaking. 13. Dialogue Tags: Let's talk a moment about dialogue tags in an effort to not say said, because it seems boring to use it. Writers often will say things like, he opined. She chimed in things like that. Anything to not say, said, The truth is really great dialogue that clips along won't even need a said a lot of the time because you will have surrounded it with other things, like the action. I was just speaking off. But there will definitely be times when you do need a tag and said is more often than not the best one when we're reading it, we're so used to said that it kind of disappears. It's It's this word that its only function is to say that it was in that said, it doesn't tell us how it was said It doesn't give us any extra information because it's such a little word and its use of frequently we kind of tune it out. Women reading dialogue so said, actually lets the dialogue continue to flow. Once you start entering a lot of the tags, that slows it down and it bulks up your writing. It doesn't you can't use different words, but it means that when you do, it should be sparingly, and the words you use should be very strategic if you've decided to use attack. Besides said, don't let it be a redundant tag, so redundant tag might be something like, Oh, she groaned. Well, oh, is a grown, so repeating it isn't necessarily helpful. Is that for me? She asked. Well, is that for me? It is a question we know she's asking it, so it becomes redundant. So that's those are clearly places where your tag is not working for you. The tag must serve you. It must have a function if you're going to use it to make sure that if you don't want to use said, you don't use a redundant tag. Also, make sure you use tags that are physically possible, and by that I mean that sometimes people and this happens a lot. Writers will have a character say something, and then the tag that they use, it's It's not physically really possible to do both of those things. I'll give you an example that's so funny, she laughed loudly. I I don't know many people who can laugh hardly and loudly and speak the words that so funny at the same time. So if you're going to have a big, hearty laugh, much better to say how funny, Candace said, laughing from deep within her. It's got to be physically possible. You can do both this one. I mean, it's just nails on a blackboard for editors. So you really want to make sure that the tags you're using are physically accomplish herbal with our bodies. And the other thing that I would say about tax is make them strong ones. If you're going to choose a different tag, make it a strong one. What do I mean by a strong one? A strong tag uses a specific word that's unique. So if you're going to say I don't know, she said quietly. In that case, you're using said, and there's that adverb l Why? So there's a warning sign. What? What about saying? I don't know, she whispered. Now you have one strong word. It doesn't have the adverb and whispered is its own thing. I can say something. A variety of ways. I could say it loudly. I didn't say it softly. I could say it harshly, but whisper is very specific. This is a was true When you're talking about, you know, action verbs, I can make something. I can make a cake, but I can bake a cake because I can also make a dress. I can make a house or I can bake a cake so address and build a house. And all of those are stronger words, stronger verbs. The same is true of dialogue, tax utilize dialogue, tax that have specifics that tell me something really genuine in one powerful word, rather than saying several words to convey the same meeting. 14. Project and Wrap Up: I have one final piece of advice for you with your dialogue. It's the one thing that I tell everyone to do with all of their writing, dialogue, narrative, exposition, poetry. No matter what it is, you will not serve yourself better than to read your work out loud when you read it out loud with hair things in it that you absolutely don't pick up on. When you're doing your writing, you will hear differently. And here's my recommendation. When you've written something, get away from it. Do your work and nothing did. That's of any deadlines that you have. Then get away from it for a least a few days. If you're lucky longer, come back to it. Read it out loud. He will sound different to you. You will hear Ah, lot of the things that I talked about in this class. They will. You will hear them because a lot of what I've said is actually quite intuitive, especially if you've read a lot you'll start to pick up on it. It's just the weeds that you can tend to get into when you're doing the writing yourself. It's very much one thing to read other people's work and know why you like it or what's working, what's not. But when it comes to actually doing it on your own, it can be easy to fall into some of these pits and thes stops, so reading your work out loud will help you to hear it the way you do other people's works . It's a marvelous exercise. Let's talk a moment about class project. This class project is challenging. You tried a scene of dialogue that includes three characters, and they're all talking about an exam that they just got back. They might. Someone might have failed it. Someone might have passed it. It doesn't matter. But three people who have all taken the same exam there in the same class, same teacher, and they're talking about their results of their test. Your challenge here is to give each of these three characters his or her unique voice, and to be very sparing with the tags. Use action, use emotion, but watch your tags be very helpful for you to be able to balance three characters. If you can do it with 32 will be infinitely you could do to. You can do with three you can do with two, so that's the assignment. I do hope you will give it a go and try it because it reinforces things so well. I hope this course is helpful for you. It is one that I feel it's more a list of rules and some of my other classes. But these really are the things that people slip up on dialogue, so they are important to be discussed. If you liked this course, I would deeply appreciate it if you would leave a review that helps me big more courses for you. Also, if you know someone who might benefit from this course whether they're subscribed to skill share or not, it would be so nice if you could share it with them again. Anything that helps get these course sound really does help me make another one for you sooner and faster. Finally, I would ask that if you have things that you would like a course on or questions you have, whether they're related to dialogue or anything else about creative writing, please leave those in the comments because I do look at those and those help me decide what courses I'm going to teach next. I thank you very much for watching. I hope you're having a wonderful day. But I wish great success with the projects we're working on. Thank you. But by