Dialogue Notes

People be talking, yo!

Not a lot of time to blog today – I’ve got to get caught up on some work this weekend, and I’m going through paperwork as we pack for out house move in a couple of weeks.

I’m the process of going through said paperwork, though, I came across my notes from the various creative writing courses I took at Washington University. While most of the notes are either utterly obvious or incomprehensible (or, more often, both), I did find a page of notes on dialogue that was interesting. This is a complete, word-for-word transcription of what I wrote down, including missing words, misspellings, and bad punctuation (I scribbled this down during a lecture).

  • Dialogue reveals character, emotion between characters
  • Short, pointed, and loaded
  • Warn overture will be met with a cool response, both in dialogue and between writer and reader. If you’re cold to the characters, the reader warms up
  • Dialogue needs tension
  • Dialogue often has a subtext to what is really going on.
  • Each character has a secret they do and do not want to reveal
  • Tend to be guarded instead of saying what we mean, just like politeness to mask anger. That masked emotion can mask a different emotion.
  • Most people don’t listen when the other is speaking.
  • Don’t do narration in dialog. (No plot exposition!)
  • Dialogue ties (“he said/she said”) Usually you want to hide these. If you use these to express thoughts, stick to one. Can be put in the middle. Instead of a tag, use a gesture.

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