Anonymous asked: > I am having trouble with the way all my characters talk < I already have tips on accents, so that is not what I am looking for. But they basically all talk the same way in a not-so-constant manner and there is not deference in speech than voice.
For some writers, dialogue comes naturally. It’s a gift often taken for granted, and when you don’t have it, dialogue can be the hardest part about writing. There are a few things you can do, however, to develop your skill and allow your characters to speak in their own unique voices.
- Eavesdrop. Listen to everyone. Go out in public and write down snippets of conversation you hear. (Coffee shops are particularly useful in this respect, since it’s not uncommon to see people with notebooks or laptops.) Note speech patterns — does one person tend to speak in fragments? Is there a rhythm to their speech? Listen to two or more people having a conversation and note the differences in the way each person speaks. Listening to real people will allow you to better understand real dialogue.
- Know who your characters are. A nuclear physicist educated at MIT will probably speak differently than a high school cheerleader from Nebraska. What demographic do your characters fall into? How old are they? Where are they from? This isn’t just about accents — someone from Kentucky will use different language than a Bostonian. Are they educated? What are their occupations? Who are they speaking to? From the vocabulary to the tone to the actual content of the conversation, the way people speak to their parents is normally different than the way they speak to their friends which is different from the way they speak to their teachers or bosses or enemies or customers or strangers on the train and on and on. People, it turns out, are complicated, and their speech patterns should reflect that.
- Read it out loud. It always helps when you can hear your dialogue, rather than simply seeing it on a page. As you’re writing, say the dialogue out loud. If it doesn’t sound like your character, try something else. Contractions, slang, word omissions, and colloquialisms allow speech to sound more natural, and these distinctions separate diagonal from the surrounding prose.
- Note the style of your action. If your writing resembles Catcher in the Rye and your main character is a teenage boy, your dialogue is probably going to sound a lot like the action surrounding it. And that’s okay. If, however, your writing reminds you of James Joyce and you’re writing about a homeless man in Albuquerque, your character’s speech and your voice should be different.
Here are a couple exercises that you can do for practice:
- Write a short piece that is dialogue only without any indicators of who is speaking other than the dialogue itself. This will force you to look at the different ways your characters speak.
- Fanfiction. (Ignoring the stigma around it, it’s an invaluable tool to improving dialogue.) Take two characters that you’re familiar with and have them talk to each other. Can you hear their personality in their voices? It helps if the characters aren’t too similar, but still work well together. Think Spock and Kirk.
- Write down a real conversation you’ve had with someone. Once you have the dialogue established, add action and description. Pulling from reality can help you determine what sounds realistic.
And here are some more resources you might want to check out:
I hope this helps!