Writing Tips

Writing Tips: How I Form Dialogue into Writing:

I separate writing into steps, so work with me here, and read twice if you need to start over after the end. This is an excerpt from chapter thirteen in a writing of mine, so don’t read for content; read for basic instruction to help focus on one writing aspect at a time.

First: Dialogue

Personally, I like to write out my dialogue at once, using an abbreviation for who’s speaking, so I know who’s speaking when I come back. This way, I don’t have to worry about description, but I can simply concentrate on the art of conversation.

In this scene, my protagonist, Amea (A), is crying with her back to the door when Emmy (E) checks on her.

EX:

A—What?

E—It’s Emmy.” “Are you crying?”

A—No

E—Good

A—What are you doing here? Where’s Leena?

E—Still sleeping.” “I was in the garden. I don’t play much, but do you want to come with me?

Second: Conversational Description

This is where I separate the speech, so it sounds more realistic and/or add basic character descriptions.

EX:

“What?”

“It’s Emmy,” she said, and I slid the door open as I wiped my tears away. She frowned. “Are you crying?” she asked, and I shook my head. “Good.” (I cut this dialogue to make it sound younger, as Emmy is nine.) 

“What are you doing here? Where’s Leena?”

“Still sleeping.” Emmy shrugged “I was in the garden. I don’t play much, but—” She grinned with crooked teeth. “Want to come with me?”

Third: Further Description and Edit

This part is where I add the description, placing the basic scene and adding to the dialogue with scenic descriptions

EX:

I slammed my bedroom door and pressed my back against it, sobbing. Water curled down my fingers, and I clutched my face, falling to the ground. I laid my forehead on my shaky knees as my body shuddered, vibrating as knocking rocked my entrance. (All of this is added)

“What?”

“It’s Emmy,” she said, and I scooted forward, (added necessary movement) sliding the door open as I wiped my tears away. She frowned, pulling at the ends of her curly red hair (added childish action), and rocked back and forth. “Are you crying?” she asked, and I shook my head. “Good.”

I smiled. “What are you doing here? Where’s Leena?”

“Still sleeping.” Emmy shrugged, pointing down the hall. (added—hall for scene) “I was in the garden. I don’t play much, but—” She grinned with crooked teeth. “Want to come with me?”

Four: EDIT EDIT EDIT.

It is necessary, so take that beautiful red pen of yours and get to work 😀

I hope this may separate your writing into bits in which you can concentrate on important aspects one at a time, rather than worry all at once.

Have fun and write endlessly,

 

~SAT

58 thoughts on “Writing Tips: How I Form Dialogue into Writing:

  1. I slammed my bedroom door and pressed my back against it, sobbing. Water curled down my fingers, and I clutched my face, falling to the ground. I laid my forehead on my shaky knees as my body shuddered, vibrating as knocking rocked my entrance.

    A couple of suggestions: By “water” I take it you mean tears. Tears might be clearer here. The amount of crying, sobbing etc seems extreme. Also, the last few words are not clear. Maybe the knocking on the door needs a separate sentence, as it’s external to the crying.

    1. Of course! This isn’t meant to be perfect but an example of forming, hence why I have editing as the next step, but thank you for your suggestions as they are exactly what should be done to this particular piece.
      ~SAT

  2. Sounds like a great approach, and it reminds me a little of how we build 3D animated scenes. It starts with a pass that roughs out the objects and positions, and progresses through passes that add more and more realism. And, of course, as that happens, adjustments and changes are made. The parallels are quite striking, and may reflect a general way of ‘sculpting’ a final product.

    The way I write software has parallels, and come to think of it, so does the way we build buildings. You’ve tapped into something fundamental here!!

    I have rarely written fiction, but a trick I’ve tried is doing multiple passes of your first pass. I’ve done one pass for each character, focusing on the tone, dialect, vocabulary and manner that that person speaks. I’ve tried to be that person in the scene.

    1. I loved your comparison! How interesting. I have never thought of it that way, and I love it when people (such as yourself) bring a new perspective to the table.
      Fascinating.
      I’m glad you liked my tips, correlating it with your own.
      ~SAT

      1. ok kool…do you have any books you would recommend? or links to any articles or free ebooks that would ease my wallet, lol. I plan to direct 4 short films next year as well as one novel. I am happy to see younger people are getting straight into being published as yourself…it’s a wonderful thing to achieve and be proud of.
        – Richardo

      2. I took a screenwriting course, so I didn’t learn through a book about it.
        I would recommend using “Celtx” though to write it, since it’s easy to use and a free download.
        ~SAT

      3. ok..thanks. I actually had “Celtx” already, I use it now and then. Thank either way. I actually have 2 books for screenwriting, I usually ask to to see what others use that is helpful in their point of view.
        Thanks again.
        -Richardo

  3. Very cool way to write dialogue! I’ll be passing this info on to my daughter. She’s very interested in this kind of thing right now.
    Best wishes!

  4. This is kind of taking from a few different posts I’ve read this morning but I find it interesting when people talk about how they write dialogs.

    I read a post last night that talked about how the author doesn’t like to use real people as the insperation to their characters since they wish to avoid running into the person and having them pick up on thr fact that they were used in a writing.

    What you said about adding the childish actions and word choice for Emmy plays intoo the point I’m trying to make because when I write a dialogs or even creatr a new character, I think back to the people I know and have met and use them to not only help me visualize my writing in my mind but to make the dialog more believable.

    I’m constantly asking myself “would so and so say this?” Or “would so and so say that”. To me, I can’t come up with a process or formula to helo emulate human speech better than using actual human speech as the base.

    I’m not at all saying this was a bad dialog; I’m more or less commenting/observing howo other people write their dialogues and I seem like a weirdo because I don’t have a fany method to doing so. Haha.

    Not even sure this made sense to anyone but myself but hear it is. Thanks for listening. Haha

    1. Ha. You’re not a weirdo at all! I didn’t think I had a “method” until an editor watched me write a piece and pointed it out.
      I think basing characters on people you know is a great idea, as I know a lot of writers/authors who do that and are very successful at that.
      ~SAT

  5. Edit, edit, edit….best advice ever. 🙂 It’s so easy to get attached to what we write, particulary when it’s good. If it doesn’t fit, though….out it should go.

    1. I cut more and more every time I go back and edit, but the results are ultimately what I want, even if I am sad to see certain things go.
      It took a while, but I’ve learned to love the editing process almost as much as writing
      ~SAT

  6. Shannon, this is great! Even though my writing is poetry, I do upon occasion take on a challenge, i.e., free writing, short short story. Thank you for following catnipoflife! It is wonderful to connect with passionate writers. Following your blog and you on Twitter (I am @awakenings2012). Happy New Year!

  7. Enjoyed this a lot. I especially liked the idea of writing the dialogue first, and then adding the description…speeds up the process of getting the story down I guess, which would help me…because I get very impatient sometimes:-)

  8. This is almost exactly how I write my first drafts, although I don’t mean too. My characters just don’t stop talking, so there isn’t a lot of room for description. I add it in later during revision, but I’m still trying to master the third step in your process (I’m horrible with description, but I’m slowly improving).

  9. That is very interesting. Very good advice, I think (naturally, I do, because I agree with it!) I have a couple of further steps I take, because of the way in which I write. These involve separating each individual in the dialogue, this helps me to establish the correct tone for each character. I also separate out the narrative if it happens to come from the perspective of one of the characters and treat it in a similar way coupled with its own dialogue. And also, since I enjoy writing the same scene over from each character’s point of view, this is also useful because the dialogue has to stay the same, of course, but the narrative as in the case above will have to change and must be put in harmony with the way each character speaks.

    I keep prodding myself to write a plugin for MS Word to help with this (as I am also a programmer, by trade) but thus far, I have not talked myself into doing so, as I hate, with a capital ‘E,’ and probably an ‘@’ in place of an ‘A,’ and on some days, a ‘3’ in place of the ‘E’… Hate. Hate. Hate reading documentation from Microsoft. It takes one forever to find what one is looking for.

  10. Shannon,

    Overall, I liked both the excerpt and the tip, but I had a couple of quick notes:

    1. “It’s Emma,” she said. Since we know who the “I” character is and the other character states her name in the dialogue, “she said.” is superfluous.

    2. Try not to have one person acting in a paragraph where another person speaks. It should be, “It’s Emma.” New paragraph, I act.

    Hope you found this useful.

    Thanks.

    Brian
    http://www.brianwfoster.com

    1. Of course. This paragraph isn’t meant to be perfect, as I wanted to Edit part to be up to other writers. I would do as you say, and the first commenter as well, and I will try to include the edited step next time, since it seems to confuse readers.
      Thank you,
      ~SAT

  11. Really good examples – when I’ve got a scene in my head and I want to get it down fast before I forget it, I tend to write it out in script form first, like this.

    Still, I don’t really have a consistent ‘method’ like you do, but it’s something worth trying.

  12. Yours is a very logical method for getting down dialogue. I tend to write in little pockets and bursts, as well–I’ll definitely give this a try!

  13. Interesting approach– the closest I’ve come (so far ) to writing fiction is a couple of screenplays I’m working on, which are, of course, made up primarily of dialogue and action, so your “AE” concept fits right into that!

  14. When I write dialogue, I hear the characters first. Afterward I tried to relate their tone and actions as they’re speaking in descriptive “interludes.” Sometimes this happens all at once, but more often it manifests in the writing, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting . . . much like your process. When the conversation sounds true, I know it’s working. Good post.

  15. This is really great and sound advice Shannon! Dialogue can be tricky but your approach makes it all the easier to tackle. Thanks for reading AND following, I have done the same with your blog as well…I look forward to sharing our work together in the future. >;o) – Jamy

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