Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue | Dani and Steve Alcorn | Skillshare

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Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue

teacher avatar Dani and Steve Alcorn, Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The Purpose of Dialogue


    • 3.

      Dialogue Techniques


    • 4.

      Project: Write Your Dialogue Scene


    • 5.

      Next Steps


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About This Class

The Creative Writing Project series helps you complete a novel, short story or screenplay. Each class focuses on a specific step in the creative process, from brainstorming to publication. The goal is to get you published!

This class shows you how to write impactful, emotionally involving and just plain interesting dialogue. It also provides some “Dos” and “Don’ts” that will help you make sure your dialogue shines. When you complete this class you will see a startling improvement in the quality of the dialogue in your Creative Writing Project.

The classes in this series include:

  • Creative Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Character
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 1
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 2
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 3
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue
  • Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript
  • Creative Writing Project: Publish Your Book
  • Creative Writing Project: Market Your Book

Meet Your Teacher

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Dani and Steve Alcorn

Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors


Steve Alcorn is the author of many novels and non-fiction books. His publications include mysteries, young adult novels, a romance novel, children's books, history and non-fiction about theme park design, and the writer's guide How to Fix Your Novel.

Dani Alcorn is the Chief Operating Officer of Writing Academy, a writing instructor, and author of Young Adult fiction, screenplays, and a screenwriting handbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University, where she majored in Psychology and Radio, Television, & Film.

Steve and Dani have helped more than 50,000 aspiring authors structure their novels. Many of their students are now published authors.

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to the creative writing project. I'm Steve Alcorn, your instructor and mentor. These classes air all about projects. They're all about creating your own original novel, short story or screenplay step by Step one project at a time. The ultimate goal of this course is by the time you've completed these projects, you'll be ready to publish. I'm the author of a number of novels, travel books, Children's books, nonfiction books about the theme park industry and the book How to Fix Your Novel, which tells you all about the techniques you'll use to structure and create your own original work of fiction. It's techniques that will draw upon throughout this class in order to achieve your ultimate goal of getting into print. So let's get started in the creative writing project. This lesson is all about writing great dialogue. In this overview, I'll introduce you to what dialogue is used for. The key concept is the purpose of dialogue. It's not just idle chatter or conversation. Dialogue serves several real purposes in fiction, and I'll show you what they are. Then, in a lesson, I'll show you dialogue techniques, great ways to bring your dialogue to life. Make it interesting, make readers engage with it and serve its other purposes. In the project section, you'll have an opportunity to write your own dialogue scene, and then in the final lesson, I'll show you some next steps to further your writing career, so let's get started. 2. The Purpose of Dialogue: one of the things that makes a book much more fun to read and makes a movie much more interesting to watch is great dialogue. In fact, most people, when they go to buy a book, flip the book open and look to see how black the pages are with words. And if the book is just full of dense copy, it's hard to buy it sometimes because you know it's going to be a slow read. But if there's lots of white space on those pages, it means that the book will be more fun to read. It will float along faster and be more lively. And the reason is that that white spaces created by there being lots of dialogue in the story. So it's important to use dialogue as much as possible. But it's also important to not use dialogue gratuitously. So let's take a look at what the purpose of dialogue is in your story. First of all, dialogue is a great way to create conflict. We don't all get into light saber battle battles every day or attack someone with a knife or a gun, but we do talk to people almost every day and often that talking can be filled with conflict, and so dialogue is a great way. Especially sharp dialogue between two characters is a great way to incorporate conflict. And as we saw in the lesson on scenes, conflict is an important part of the physical part of what drives a scene. It's really what advances your plot, so you need lots of it, and dialogue is the most fun way to incorporate it. Dialogue also is great for conveying emotion. It can often be used in the sequel that follows a scene to convey how the person feels or thinks. But you can also just routinely convey emotion of other characters aside from your protagonist, just through the conversation and the way they talk. It's not even necessary, typically to add attributions into the dialogue to convey their emotion. Usually the words will speak for themselves. Dialogue inherently advances the plot, and in fact, if you find that you have dialogue in your work that does not advance the plot, I advise you to cut it because it's just kind of meaningless prattle. And while there's lots of that in our everyday lives, people don't want to read that so make sure that each line of dialogue actually does move the plot forward in a meaningful fashion. Dialogue can also be used to set the scene. As I mentioned in a previous lecture, The setting can be established, the surroundings, What's present. What's expected can be established through dialogue. And it's often more interesting to read than a description coming from the author. That's describing where the scene is taking place and dialogue can be used to develop your character. If your character speaks differently at the beginning of your story than the end of your story, it very much can convey the way that the character changed. At the beginning. They were hampered by their flawed, As we've seen throughout the story. They struggled with that flaw, and they gradually changed and by the end, there a different person, and you can use the dialogue to convey that change. Dialogue is great at replacing exposition in general, and so when you have a choice, see if there's a way to get characters to talk about something instead of having to step in as the author and to tell us about it, your readers will thank you for it. You'll have much whiter areas on your pages that will make them more readable and your book more salable, and it will just be a lot more fun. So those air Cem purposes of dialogue, and now we're going to look at how you can write great dialogue. I'll see you in the next lesson. 3. Dialogue Techniques: dialogue is fun to read, and it's fun to write. This lesson looks at dialogue techniques that will help you energize your writing. So let's look at the best ways to write great dialogue. When people speak in real life, they don't make long speeches. They speak in short phrases, fragments of sentences. They don't necessarily let one another finish, so don't right huge paragraphs of dialogue to be spoken by one character. It's not realistic. Listen to the people around. You listen to your own conversations and see how you communicate with others and incorporate that into the way that you write your dialogue. Then you need it. Add attributions to your dialogue. Attributions. Tell readers who said what, and the easiest way to do that is to just add the word said and then the name of the character. And it's best to stick with the words said, or occasionally, maybe the word asked. The reason is that it's completely invisible in text. Readers just skip over it. They know who said it, and they don't worry about it. If you start using weird attributions like exclaimed or ex postulated, it's really going to draw attention to the attribution and it doesn't add much of anything . Nordeste throwing in an adverb that tells people how it was, said Don't say, said softly. Just indicate how they said it by what the content of the speech is. Well, we'll figure it out. Well, understand that if someone is saying something confidentially that it's, it's going to be soft, if you must. You could use an ATTRIBUTION like whispered. But try to limit the attribution is and let the dialogue speak for itself. Also, rather than using an ATTRIBUTION at all, a lot of times you can use beats or stage actions. Beats and stage actions are little things that happen that are tied to a particular character that allow you to avoid using the word said or another attribution. If someone picks up an ashtray and puts it on the table and then dialogue immediately follows that, we'll assume that the person who picked that up and put it on the table is the one who is speaking. Similarly, a stage action is a little longer than a beat like that. A stage action might be that they get up, they walk across the room, they examine something they ponder for a moment. They turn around and then there's dialogue. You don't need to say so and so said that if it's all in the same paragraph, we'll assume that person who did all of that stage acting is going to be the one who speaks . Broken dialogue means that people don't speak in complete sentences. They start, are interrupted, trailed off change thoughts in the middle of a sentence. Things were discontinuous, and dialogue should be the same way. They're not nice and smooth, and it's fine to interpret the dialogue of the characters the same way you can use Em dashes those air long dashes to indicate if someone is interrupted and you can use an ellipsis, which is three dots to indicate that someone trails often never finishes their thought. Dialect is when someone talks a funny way, and you Trotta convey that in the way that you spell stuff that they're saying. It's very annoying to read very much of that. It used to be the style, and in fact, if you look at classic novels like Huckleberry Finn, there's a lot of dialects in that book, and they're all spelled out. But these days it's a little tedious to read that stuff. The best thing to do is to indicate how the person speaks when you first introduced them, and to maybe maybe ah used one affectation. For example, if they're always dropping the G at the end of their I n G endings, you could use an apostrophe to replace the G, and it wouldn't get too annoying. And when we see that, will then start to hear all the other words that they say in the same sort of an accent that would drop that letter. But for the most part, you can just say that they spoke in such and such an accent and then not indicate with spelling how they're speaking Word. Choice, on the other hand, is fine. If they speak in a way where they have a peculiar word, order a dropout words. It's fine to do that. Don't just don't misspell a lot of words that's really annoying. You can also use dialogue to do interior monologue, and that's where someone is thinking. And you were. Instead of saying they thought about how they would climb the wall, you can actually reproduce their exact thoughts. G. I wonder if I could climb that wall and you can represent that in a number of ways. It could be in italics, or it could be in quotes handled as normal dialogue. Or in some cases, if it's very clear that they're thinking it can simply be in line in the rest of your text , and it will be obvious that it's a thought inside of a character's head. And then finally, there's nonverbal dialogue. We communicate in all sorts of different ways all day long and that communication is dialogue, but it's not always spoken. We nod, we shrug, we Kakar head. If we're curious about something, and those things can also be interpreted inserted into the dialogue, it's stage actions, and they're a great form of non verbal communication that can make your dialogue even more realistic. So those are all powerful techniques for dialogue and in the next lesson will actually do a project that involves you working with some dialogue, and I think you have a lot of fun with it. I'll see you there 4. Project: Write Your Dialogue Scene: Now it's your turn to write a dialogue scene in this ah project. What I'd like you to do is open a document file and create a scene, and I'd like to use all of those dialogue techniques that I described in the previous lesson. Yusa each one of them and used them for each of your characters and write about 1/2 a page of dialogue with two people. Converse ing. It can get confusing if you have more than two people in a scene, so it's usually best to try to keep it just to to so used these techniques in the supplemental materials for this project. I have included a reference sheet for this and some other great information about how to write good dialogue. So take a look at that and come up with the best bit of dialogue that you can and polish it until you're really happy with it and then posted in the community discussion area and let's all have a look at it and talk about it 5. Next Steps: thanks for joining me on this journey. I've enjoyed it and I hope you have to. Thing is one of a dozen different projects that are available through this series, of course, is if you follow all of these projects from brainstorming all the way to marketing, you'll be able to bring your idea for a novel, short story or screenplay to reality, step by step and project by project. In the meantime, I hope you'll follow us on Facebook and be sure to sign up for free writing tips. I look forward to seeing you there. Until then, happy writing.