Create Compelling ConversationsbyNobodyWorthKnowing©
This is a tutorial, part one, of creating compelling conversations to wow your readers, and propel your story, and dialogue.
Creating realistic dialogue is an important aspect of writing. Good conversation simply does not consist of a listing of He said this, she said that, he growled, she purred, they hissed, etcetera.
People do not purr, or hiss, or chirp. Sometimes we banter, but a reader wants to see the bantering, rather than be told how it is being done.
I must reiterate this to you. Men do not rasp, or cluck, or growl, or bark. Women do not hiss (especially when their sentence does not end in "s"), purr, chirp.
These are lazy methods used in written word to avoid writing actively. While these methods are lazy, and distracting, they are nothing compared to the unforgivable blasphemy of misusing punctuation lazily. For example: "!!!" or "!?"...
These symbols were not created to rape grammar, or ruin conversation. If anything should end with "!!!", then the topic preceding it should be imperative, negating the need for three exclamation marks.
Likewise, if something is such a serious question that it requires "!?", then the topic preceding it had better be a question of life and death... and all the same, don't do that.
It's ugly, lazy, and it makes dialogue look forced, and obtuse.
Using implication, active dialogue creates a three dimensional conversation that avoids needless cliches in growling, purring, hissing, etcetera.
To illustrates the differences between the two, and to illustrate when using dialogue tags is acceptable, please consider the examples below.
The following example of dialogue is written in the style that a majority of authors create conversation. This is written in the third person objective, but applies equally to first person objectives.
Mark and Jody
"Hey there Mark." Jody sighed, lazily. She glanced into Mark's eyes, and smiled.
"Hey there Jody." Mark said, mimicking her lazy drawl. He loved the color of her crystalline blue eyes.
"What are you doing around these parts?" Jody asked, leaning back, but still maintaining her eye contact.
"Oh, you now, same old, same old." Mark smiled.
"Same old, huh?" Jody countered.
"You know it." Mark grinned.
"That's too bad." Jody purred.
"Too bad!?" Mark growled. "Too bad!?"
"Don't get all pissy with me now, Mark. I've been chasing you for years and you never once saw me as more than a piece of ass."<
"Jesus, Jody. I... I didn't know. I'm sorry."<
"Yeah, well stay sorry. Why are you here...?"
The above example illustrates a conversation that could provide a compelling read if not for the constant distraction of Jody saying mark's name, and following it with "Jody said", and mark replying with a "Mark said" thereafter.
Indeed, because there are only two people conversing, it is fine to relax identifying tags so long as there are other indicatives of who is speaking.
Likewise, in a party of three or more, though it is trickier, it is still possible to avoid overusing speech tags.
The following example is the exact conversation as shown in the first example, but utilizing alternatives to speech tags. Unnecessary identifying tags are removed, and the conversation managed in a compelling atmosphere, with the attempt to show the scene, rather than tell it.
Mark and Jody take II
The summer sun was hot, even in the shade.
Jody sat, feeling all too lazy, watching the breeze create smoldering whirls of dust devils in the cracked soil that used to be a front lawn.
She yawned, watching the approaching figure of Mark Dagney, a talented liar, and so naturally, her ex boyfriend.
Jody locked eyes with Mark, relaxed, and waved a barely noticeable dismissal. "Hey there."
"Hey there." Mark continued up her porch, and leaned against the railing. Chips of white paint fluttered away from the old wood, flecks sticking to the ribs of his sweaty tank top.
It had been a long walk, but an important walk, and there was a lot to say.
Jody stretched, arching her back out a moment, pushing her chest out only slightly, and reminding Mark exactly what he was missing. Cheaters never prospered. "What brings you around these parts?"
"Same old, same old."
"Same old, huh?"
Mark grinned, cocking an eyebrow. Jody hated the eyebrow.
"You know it.
You know it. Jody knew that tone. It actually meant, you know it babe.
Mark's cute little nuances were nauseating now. She knew the song, and dance, and there was only one reason Mark Dagney came around, and it was never for polite conversation.
He was the epitome of the worse men in creation, squared. Jody drew her lips back into the pretense of a warm smile. "That's too bad."
Mark's brow furrowed, his expression darkening instantly. Fucking Jody. "Too bad?"
Jody would have flinched, but flinching gave Mark Dagney more power than he ever deserved in a lifetime. Jody, calm, kept the smile. "Don't get all pissy with me. I chased your worthless, cheating ass around for years, and I was never more than a piece of ass to you, you arrogant son of a bitch."
"Jesus, Jody." Mark said, suddenly. "I didn't know you felt that way... I'm sorry."
Yeah, you stupid shit. Too late for apologies. "Mark, what do you want."
Here you see I actually did use a dialogue tag. Tactically exceptional, too. It was used as a dramatic pause in "Jesus, Jody." Mark said. "I didn't..." In the case of situations which require a pause, you do not need to write "mark paused".
The pause is implied.
You WANT to imply whichever emotion you're character feels. Instead of asking what Mark wanted, Jody demanded it. "What do you want." It wasn't small talk; it wasn't polite conversation.
Use italics! They emphasize thought, and emotion, and may convey exclamation greater than any "!!!" of "!?" ever could.
Instead of "What!?" or "What!!!" Try "What?" or even, What! It is simply more effective, and progresses the conversation along without stalling.
Italic thoughts are awesome for conversations. They indicate what a character is thinking, and therefore can imply it in the conversation. Example:
Mark you stupid shit. Too late for apologies. "Mark, what do you want."
In one sentence, because of a thought, the sentence implies he is neither forgiven, nor welcome there.
These are the basics of creating a driving conversation. Action sequences, and high paced conversations may be preceded by action.
The door burst open, splintering the frame as Mark crashed through it, tacking Jody to the floor. "Stay down, stay down!"
A maelstrom of gunfire poured overhead, as Mark crept on his stomach, dragging a shaking Jody behind him. "What do they want?"
Mark grimaced, pulling himself, and Jody behind a wall. "They want you."
The same can be said of any emotional scene. Conveying emotion implies the tone, and mood of the conversation. It saves on overusing the He said, She said problem, and allows an author creativity, and flow, which keeps a story moving, and readers interested
Overuse of any punctuation will bore your reading audience. Substituting punctuation with proper descriptors is one way to keep the story exciting.
If you can find a way to describe intensity in a sentence, or less, this is INTENSITY. For dialogue, this is paramount in avoiding the overuse of "!" or worse, using the blaspheming "!!" or "!!!".
This same rule may be applied to general writing to weave excitement into the story, though it supersedes a single sentence, and may be written as needed, so long as the paragraph is supposed to end in "!".
If you can find a way to describe struggling with words, in such ways as hysteria, stuttering, or stammering, or stuttering, this is "??", or "???".
Always, always remember that ITALICS easily emphasize both "!" and "?", as well as their blasphemous counterparts.
Writing good, and believable dialogue is tantamount to creating a compelling story.
It is also acceptable to use caps lock when shouting. It indicates the possibility of screaming, however overuse may be distracting, and this method should be used with discretion.