Kristin and Bobbi's Write Life Wednesday: A Dialogue-Phobes Guide to Writing Believable Dialogue

I don’t like to write dialogue. I find it difficult and often slow going. I tend to torture myself over every word asking myself the same questions.  Does this conversation sound stilted? Does anyone actually speak in the manner of my characters? Is this conversation boring? Most importantly, does it move the story forward or just act as filler?

Now, ask me to create a setting? a mood? no problem! Words flow out of me like a thawed river set free.  Write a sex scene? easy! (Hey, there is very little dialogue necessary here). But make my characters talk to each other… hmmmm.

I can and often do sit for hours staring at the screen. 

But have no fear. Even I, a dialogue-phobe, have found ways to work through dialogue block and get my hand moving across the page or keyboard.

My top method is simple eavesdropping. I love to listen to other people’s conversations. I have found it to be a guaranteed way to learn cadence of speech, pace, and observe body language and gestures. This approach is economical, no more than the price of a cup of coffee/tea. All you need do is sit yourself in a local café/restaurant, park, hospital lobby or my personal favorite, a courthouse. Make sure you have a notebook and then just relax, sip on your favorite beverage and listen. 

Yes, stealing great, unforgettable lines is allowed.

Don’t want to eavesdrop in public?

Try watching a few of your favorite movies, focusing on the spoken dialogue, body language and pacing. How does the conversation differ when it takes place between two women or two men who are buddies vs. a couple romantically involved? How about between a parent and a child?

Once you have written dialogue, read it aloud! Yes, your family may begin to believe you are having a breakdown, especially if you take on all the different voices and accents of your characters, but don’t let that deter you. Close the door, go into a closet, the attic, or outside in the back yard, and ignore them. Reading your dialogue out loud is the most surefire way to test your dialogue for believability.

Happy writing.