Tag Archives: Dialogue

Quintus Quotes: Favourites

I love quotes – they often sum up an entire concept, attitude or reality in one simple sentence.  On my desk, I have a flip pad of quotes I’ve put together with notebook rings, and the first quote below is the one I’ve got it turned to now (this meme is my own variation on a quote by Celeste Headlee‘s sister); the others are poignant or pithy, but they’re among my favourites (depending on my mood).  As to the last meme, it’s close to my heart – I love spiders, and I find people’s fear of them a bit amusing… Enjoy!

Variation of Quote by Celeste Headlee's Sister - Miniskirt Dialogue, ConversationAnna White - Brokenness, WoundednessJD Houston - Something New, VisionBlessed are the MisfitsZombie vs Spider

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Tricks for Writing Dialogue

Listen, RespondI recently listened to a Ted Talk by British psychologist Elizabeth Stokoe, who analyses patterns, rhythms and wording in conversations. From her talk, I distilled a few interesting points that could be applied when writing a dialogue for fiction, and I’d like to share them with you:

  1. Are you willing?  If a person is given a sense of control or authority in the situation, they’re far more likely to cooperate.  If you ask, “Do you want this service / action to happen?” you may draw a blank response; but if you ask that person, “Would you be willing to receive this service / be willing to see X happen?” you’re more likely to get a positive response.
  2. How did you…?  When you want to find out particular information from a person, how and when you ask for that information in the course of a conversation / dialogue greatly decreases or increases your chances of getting a positive response / reply.  If rapport is first established, they are much more willing to reply.
  3. Why did you / were you…?  If an open-ended question is asked, target information may not come; but if a target-specific question is asked non-confrontationally, the desired information is more certain.  “Why did you do X?” or “Where have you been?” are both confrontational, and the reaction will likely be evasive or defensive.  But if you instead say, “I was wondering what your reasons for doing X were… could you explain?” or “I tried to reach you earlier, and was wondering where you were”, these are more likely to get a more positive response, or to solicit the information you’re searching for.
  4. Any or Some?  “Any” tends to elicit a negative response or a refusal, while “some” invites a more positive response.  A simple example is, “Would you like any tea?” – this implies an unwillingness or a reluctance on the speaker’s part to provide, whereas, “Would you like some tea?” implies the assumption of a positive response, and is thus more likely to solicit an affirmative response.  In both cases the person asked may want tea, but would be unwilling to coerce the one offering if they have the impression that the offer is made unwilling through the use of “any”.

When applying these ideas to writing a dialogue, a positive application will move your characters closer to a solution or resolution, whereas the negative application will lead them more toward miscommunication and conflict; depending on what you need to happen, you choose which way the dialogue takes your characters, and thus your readers.

Keep writing!

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Writing Tips: Dialogue

howtobebritish1Dialogue is (to point out the obvious) vital to a novel; it displays the voices of your characters and helps the reader get to know and care about the characters, understand their motives, their interrelationships, and distinguish each character’s point of view.  If you don’t get the dialogue right, you rip the reader out of the story, or worse – make them put down your novel and add your name to “never again” lists!  So, here are a few pointers and tips to keep in mind as you develop your characters and put words into their mouths:

1) Develop your characters well enough to make their voice distinct; do they have catch-phrases, or local dialects that influence their vocabulary?  Do they tend toward long or short sentences, or are they from a past time and place that had a different way of speaking?  Educate yourself if necessary in various modes of speech .

2) Dialogue is an illusion of conversation; but it’s also about what is not said.  Non-verbal actions reveal:

a) How a character says something

b) What a character chooses not to say, but inadvertantly reveals through actions.

c) Why the character says what they do.

Do they have particular actions when they are upset or aggitated that communicate their moods to the reader?  Do they bounce their knees when excited?  Does their body language confirm or contradict their verbal message?

3)  Fictional dialogue needs to cut to the chase; if there’s no point to the text (revealing motivation, character or plot point), then chop it!

4)  Avoid the trap of using dialogue as exposition (the proverbial villain’s monologue as he prepares to destroy the hero), but rather reveal essential information through action, or narration.

Explore your characters and develop their voices, and above all – keep writing!

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Creative Writing over Christmas Holidays

I don’t know about the rest of you, but Christmas has snuck up on me this year!  Between publishing two books in November and all of the work involved in that process and the aftermath (promotion, etc.), I came up for breath last weekend, as I wrote about last week.  I took a short break, and now I’m beginning work on the next project (diving into research and scene layout).  But with Christmas coming up, it’s time to shift down a gear or two, and enjoy the season.  If you are a writer like me, writing can be addictive; it’s a good habit to write something every day.  But who says it needs to be a book manuscript, or whatever your next project or usual format is?  If you write poetry, try your hand at calligrams; if you write short stories, try writing an ambigram.  If you write constantly, take a break and read a book that has absolutely nothing to do with research or preparation for your next project!

Here are a few different styles to choose from, just to shake things up a bit:

  • Flash fiction (300-1,000 – word stories)

    One of my first calligrams; not very neat, but cathartic!

    One of my first calligrams; not very neat, but cathartic!

  • Short stories (fiction or nonfiction – limit yourself, e.g. to one page)
  • Nonfiction
  • Anecdotes
  • Jokes
  • Profiles
  • Travel writing
  • Children’s books
  • Screen writing
  • Play writing
  • Poetry
  • Freelance
  • Novel
  • Novella
  • Memoir
  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Song writing (lyrics, if you can’t write/read music)
  • Calligram (do a Google Image search to see examples)
  • Asemic writing
  • Book report
  • Fan fiction
  • Letter
  • Journal
  • Dialogue
  • Creative doodles (with or without words)
  • Cartoon strips
  • Ambigram
  • Micography (Microcalligraphy)
  • Concrete poetry (or any number of poetry styles – check out a small list here)
  • Haiku

 

 

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