In this video I share my top five tips to help you enhance your dialogue so that your characters sound realistic and their words pop off the page! Enjoy. Please comment as well.
One of the misconceptions of writing is that you have to say everything the character is thinking. But most of you know that isn’t true. I’ve thought about this for a while, connecting the fact that dialogue can show more than what your character’s say. It speaks for what the character’s not saying as well.
What your characters say or doesn’t say can mean something for your readers. Are the characters hiding something? Are they shy or hesitant? Are they liars?
The phrasing of a thought or the hidden words from your character’s fumbling sentence can show a lot.
How It Can Enhance Your Writing
1. You can create edgy characters who hide what they really mean by only choosing select words or phrases
2. It allows your characters to use more gestures and other body language to show what they really mean or how they really feel.
An example of this would be a shy character fumbling with his words when trying to ask out a hot girl. You describe his body language as fidgeting, sweating, and his words are incoherent but the readers understands how your character feels in other ways than dialogue alone.
photo credit: Kzenon from 123.rt.com
You are a woman writing from the point of view of a male character.
You are a man writing a novel from the 1st person perspective of a woman.
This type of writing can be tricky if you’re not used to doing it. You want to know your characters best, but can you really know what’s going through a woman’s mind if you’re a man and vice versa?
Why it’s different
As a writer, you’re used to writing what you know and being the opposite sex is something you are most likely to infer from tv shows or dramatic romance movies.
So how do you write a character that is a man/woman when you’re not one?
How I do it
In my first novella, When Love Hurts, I switch point of view with my second main character, Jaylen. Even though he’s a man, I write his words and dialogue as if I was a man myself. I picture Jaylen as a strong and confident man and since a woman can have those traits as well, I was able to get into a confident person’s mindset to make it work.
I did this by focusing on gender similarities instead of their differences. Both genders need to eat, sleep, and feel acceptance. They also both have strengths and weaknesses. You can create your character to have whatever personality you choose regardless of gender.
What you need to think about is dialogue. You don’t want your female characters to sound like men and your men to sound like women. (At least, if you don’t intend for them too.)
Reread your dialogue and ask yourself if a man or a woman would really say that. Yes, your character can be unique but you don’t want it to be unintentionally out of place for your character.
If you’re really unsure about your dialogue, don’t feel discouraged to ask a friend of that sex if it sounds like it would come from a man or woman.
Don’t worry too much about the different thoughts men and women have because they are different from character to character. If you keep your story plot-focused then your story should continue to be moving forward.
As people, we interact with the opposite sex every day and there are things we learn from them. We have some things in common but we’re still different.
We can learn a lot from just observing people. Not in a creepy way but to study how different people handle different things whether they are a guy or a girl. You can read more about observing people or eavesdropping here.
I think the main thing to remember is to go with your gut instincts. If you have a feeling something doesn’t sound right, it’s better to ask a few people and be sure than to keep questioning it over and over in your head. Men and woman are the same and very different at the same time so writing from a different perspective like that can be challenging at times.
What do you do when you write a character from the opposite gender of your own? Share your creative findings in the comments.
I think yes.
Here are three reasons how it can be possible:
- If you know your character’s voice including word choice and vocabulary helps your reader decipher who’s talking. Knowing your character’s personality and style helps too.
- Your readers need to be AWARE of your character’s way of talking. This takes a while and is more likely to develop in the subconscious mind as the reader is halfway finished with your story. Getting your readers used to how your characters talk as well as how they behave develops the more the spend time reading about that character.
- Being aware of what your character would not say in their dialogue also adds to being able to identify him or her without a tag.
Guess who’s saying what
What you, the writer, knows: one man is highly educated, one woman is sophisticated
“Can you pass me that pen, please?”
“No. Here, use this pencil instead. You’re completing a packet of math problems and you will make mistakes.”
“I don’t make mistakes.”
“If you think that, you are a fool.”
Can you tell which person was saying what words? In truth, the sophisticated woman had the first line and the educated man had the second and it continued back and forth. I’m hoping it was easy to tell the two apart.
Try this one: one is a child and the other one is a perky woman
“It’s fun. Just try it. Run until you get to the slippery part and slide down on your belly. It’s called a Slip N’ Slide!”
“Why not? Wait here and I’ll show you. Are you watching? See…Weeee!”
In this one the child had the first line and the woman had the second. Being able to show who’s talking without the use of tags can be done mostly by knowing how each of your characters talk.
I’m not saying not to use tags because we need all the “she said, he said, they said” to introduce who’s talking to our readers.
But I do not think writers should depend on tags alone to show who’s talking. The dialogue should be able to stand alone and speak for itself.
Mastering word choice is a vital part for showing who is talking rather than telling it at the end of the dialogue with a “Kate said” or a “Timmy said” ending. Different people can say the same thing in different ways that’s why knowing your characters is so important.
Each of your characters has different experiences, background, vocab, and personalities and each of those areas influence their dialogue and word choice.
What do you as a writer think about word choice showing who is talking? Do you use tags more often or word choice to show who’s talking? Share what you think about tags in the comments below. photo credit 123.rf.com
Why is finding your character’s voice important? It gives your character’s their own way of standing out.
Have you ever read a book and the characters sounds just alike?
They don’t really stand out and you’re constantly waiting for the ‘James said’ or the ‘Tony said’ at the end of each line.
You don’t want your readers to have to do that. I’ve had to reread paragraphs in novels when I get confused about who was talking.
No one likes being confused especially if the book was going on so well.
So here are two things to help your character’s voice stand out;
What are some topics that your character loves talking about?
This has a lot to do with knowing your character. You have to know their passion and their attitudes to know what they are most likely to bring up in conversation.
Is your character into sports? What about money or romance? What is their goal in the story? Does it keep popping up in their mind that they can’t help but bring it up when they’re talking to someone?
Does your character’s have an accent?
This question makes you think about what your character doesn’t like. So do your characters curse? Do they like use slang and never say the standard English word?
What are some topics that they would never bring up. If the topic’s brought up would they quickly dismiss it?
I have a character named Malcolm I’m writing that is a social playboy. He will never bring up the topic of marriage and I know this because I know his personality. So knowing your character really helps to develop their voice and to help them stand out.
I think one of the important things to remember about this subject is that it takes time to know your characters inside and out.
When you start with a brand new character it may take a month before you feel comfortable telling their story for them. It took me even longer.
Once you think or write about your character a lot you will get a feel for how they do things and you’ll also understand the why behind it. It’s when their words flow from your head to the keyboard when you’ve found their voice.
But it takes time and patience so keep writing.
Thanks for reading,
Photo credit: Istockphotos.com