Writers, as a breed, tend to be more introspective. They usually view the world in a heightened fashion, urging them to work their contemplations and quandaries into story. Writers are often described as being dreamers, creatives, storytellers who get lost in the magic of their own heads. However, learning how to translate the magic of a notion or feeling into a character’s words can be tricky for beginners. In her 2012 TED-ed talk, Nadia Kalman gives writers three simple tips to help improve their dialogue. She calls it, Three Anti-Social Skills to Improve Your Writing.
Step One: Eavesdrop. Writers are purveyors of their own reality, making them excellent observers. Translation? You’re a good people-watcher. Observing others-- how they talk, what they say, and how you would describe them while they’re saying it-- are all helpful practices when trying to create authentic-sounding dialogue. (To be clear, this does not give you leave to press a glass to your sister’s bedroom wall so you can tease her about what she said to her new crush at the dinner table.)
Step Two: Pretend Imaginary People Are Real. No, not the giant rabbit you see hovering in the corner. This means taking the characters you’ve created and imaging them doing what you’re doing. If they were sitting next to you on a bus, what would they say? What might they do? What would they wear? Imagining how your characters would react in different scenarios helps you develop them into rich, multi-dimensional characters.
Step Three: Mutter To Yourself. (And Write it All Down.) Try speaking your dialogue out loud. How does it sound? When we write, we tend to be more formal and long-winded than when we speak. If your characters are set in modern times, chances are, they won’t say things like: “Pardon me, kind sir, but perchance you might consider NOT plastering the bus window with your fruit roll-up?” (Sidebar: If done in public, this step may garner some odd stares. But hey, the title of Nadia Kalman’s TED-ed talk is three ANTI-SOCIAL skills to improve your writing.)
What are your favorite ways to practice your writing?