Lara Willard reports:
"Does all of your dialogue sound the same, no matter who’s talking? Have you had feedback saying that your dialogue is awkward or unrealistic? Nearly any book about writing fiction will have a section on dialogue. Consider this a quick reference or summary...Fix the awkward syntax, the too[-]perfect grammar, the long-winded response. A breath unit is the number of syllables a reader would have to read aloud in one breath. Readers take breaths at punctuation marks. Try keeping to 20 syllables or fewer per breath unit (25 is pushing it), and vary the lengths. Too many long segments make your reader lose his or her place. Too many short ones are choppy and jarring, like using exclamation points after each sentence...Use a journal or tape recorder. Consider the era, location, and culture of your character. Then find diaries, spoken interviews, or You[T]ube videos of people with a similar background. Study their vocabulary and the way they string words together. What kinds of idioms do they use? What kind[s] of words do they leave out? Record their speech and then craft similar sentences in the same style...While I think reality television is 98% garbage, it does give you an idea of how people actually talk. Just try to find one that isn’t obviously scripted. Note that quotes in newspaper interviews are often edited. You want unedited speech, so try to find interviews you can listen to...Bottom line, if it’s hard to read, you’re doing it wrong. If someone speaks with an accent, that’s a good time to tell us rather than show us. Misspelling words to show pronunciation at best is confusing to some readers, and at worst it’s offensive. Diction (word choice) and syntax (word order) are your tools. Vary Latinate and Anglo-Saxon diction, vary sentence length, and switch up word order until you get a distinctive (but realistic) voice...Dialogue is the meat of a screenplay. Screenwriters know how to convey tone, conflict, backstory, motivation, and more through dialogue...Acting will show you how to get into your character and make them sound and act realistic. If you can become your character, if you can live inside your character’s mind, not only will your dialogue be realistic, [but] your plot will also ring true...Eliminate all empty words. Realize that subtext is even more important than text—what isn’t said is more important than what is said. Think of dialogue as an espresso and each dialogue tag as a slap in the face...If the character already knows it, then why is he or she stating the obvious? Dialogue has two functions: to characterize and move the story forward. Not backward. If you can characterize the protagonist through the interchange, then do it. If your information is absolutely necessary, but doesn’t characterize more than one character, summarize."
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