Character Presentation 1: Dialogue

Old Guys Are The Best Kind Of Guys

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  In this series of articles, I’ll be giving my rather-respectable opinion on how (I believe) that characters should be presented in fiction- currently with a focus on prose- and how to make presentation work in the constraints imposed by the media. To start, let’s talk about dialogue. It’s something that I find to provide the most fuel for criticism and/or nausea in a work of fiction, professional or amateur. mochilas kanken First, I’m going to start off with a recommendation. If you want to learn what REALLY good dialogue in a novel/written form looks like, go to the library or bookstore and find yourself a copy of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen. I think it won an award or something. For some reason. Point is, this book will help me communicate several things absolutely necessary to what I’m trying to say as it taught me what strong dialogue is. Air Jordan 13 Donna It’s also one of the few young adult novels that doesn’t make me want to commit suicide. But I digress. Cheap Fjallraven Kanken Backpack THE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY (AMENDABLE IF NECESSARY) First, strong characterization. Know your characters. You should know them intimately. Or at least try to. But at the very least, make sure that you get a FEEL for your character and it should just go forward from there. Isolate what traits that a character holds that apply to the way they communicate. Take, for instance, an example from The Chosen. In the first part of the novel, the main character and a boxer are sharing the same room in a hospital, and I found their conversations to be extraordinarily enjoyable. The writing communicated the boxer’s strong accent not through vague association/description (“…”, he said with a Bostonian accent) but through phonetics- modifying the words and the flow of the words to make it sound like someone talking with an accent in your head, and it worked wonderfully. Furthermore, whenever he gets in a conversation, he usually finds some way to redirect it towards the way his manager screwed him over in the past. This helps communicate his inability to move forward because of his fixation on a past event that he thinks ruined his life. What did we learn here: Verbals tics, accents, figures of speech, speech patterns that reflect the character, and you need to understand that there is more than one response to even the simplest questions. Know which response that your character will give. Second, if you’ve seen how I like to do dialogue, I enjoy presenting dialogue in a way that’s conducive to its flow. Nike Air Max 1 Pas Cher When two people are talking, I do my best to minimize prose and only indicate who’s talking when it’s absolutely necessary and to prevent confusion. That dialogue flows really well, and it’s not wooden. Maglia LeBron James It looks and sounds like an exchange between two persons. Why? Because I do my best to focus on the words themselves, what’s being spoken. Prose and dialogue can work against each other, which is why dialogue tends to work best in visual, active media, such as television, movies, and video games, where both setting/visuals and dialogue are communicated to the audience simultaneously, taking advantage of both a person’s capacity for hearing and for viewing (should they possess those faculties- it is unfortunate that there are people who may only possess one or neither of these). This is the advantage of audio/visual mediums, in which visualization is mostly prefabricated by the author (considerably more-so than in writing). That being said, written creative works have their own advantages that audio/visual media lacks (and vice versa), but unnecessary, may be covered in a later article, and ultimately tangential- which brings us to my next point. To prevent a conversation from feeling wooden, make it organic, dynamic, flexible. There’s no “set-topic” to the conversation. Conversations are constantly naturally derailed by two or more personalities in dialogue with one another. Remember this: characters are dynamic. They are not simply talking heads disseminating information and bad one-liners unfit for the prose. A natural conversation is a mix of forced command/informative exchanges and stimulus-response. In other words, a conversation may start with a goal in mind, but responding to one comment or statement may bring to mind in a character an association that will bring them to a tangent. nike air max one soldes See, going off topic- when it happens, where it happens, how it happens, and in what direction it starts going- not only helps you show who the characters are, but it also reveals the dynamic between them. A great character dynamic, be it chemistry between a character and their romantic interest or the charged exchanges between protagonist and antagonist, involves each character bouncing off one another in a conversation. Bouncing off one another, going on these tangents, these are what make conversations fluid. It’s what differentiates a real conversation from two monologues with talking points spliced together into a dialogue. That said, keep in mind that there ARE structured, wooden conversations. Terse, unimaginative, to the point. zonnebrillen kopen ray ban Words practically stolen from Matty (Heyo!). But recognize that if your work’s dialogue is filled with those kinds of conversation, your audience isn’t going to be amused. At all. Only use these wooden conversations when necessary. Now I’m going to go ahead and contradict my second point. This point is probably personal preference. nike air max pas cher (Alliteration, let’s go!) But I like movies. I like a dramatic presentation- a stylistic panache. Something I’ve found that is extraordinarily helpful in regards to making the presentation of a character compelling and draw you in is how their words are juxtaposed with actions. nike tn requin Not “This is how he/she talks, this is how he/she acts.” More like what they do while they’re talking. It makes what you’re writing more… Cinematic? Example: ____ “What’s it mean? You get used to things?” “Pretty much, yeah.” The man retrieved a cigarette from a pack in his jacket pocket, placing it between his lips as he fumbled with a lighter. “Like killing?” He asked, the odd question punctuated by the snapping of his lighter and the ignition of the cigarette. “Like smoking?” He mumbled to himself bitterly in a quiet tone, rolling his eyes. “I beg your pardon?” ____ Now, for the same example reduced to a non-example: _____ “What’s it mean? You get used to things?” “Pretty much, yeah.” “Like killing?” He asked. “Like smoking?” He mumbled quietly to himself. “I beg your pardon?” _____ I’m personally of the opinion that the first excerpt is considerably more interesting to read. Not only do the actions described give you insight about the character, but they also give what you’re reading an interestingly-visual component. You can essentially create a sort of feeling usually found in a visual medium and transplant it into the written. However, it must be used conservatively, I think- this point has to be balanced with Point #2. A mix of pure dialogue and pure action. When you successfully combine both, you’ve got really compelling writing. Fjallraven Kanken Usually. That’s it for now. On my next article in this series I’ll be going into detail on how to construct or use slang and euphemisms to give your characters cultural identification, make them something the audience can relate to and lifelike, and to flesh out a mythos as a whole.

  • Beth

    See, although my style tends to Excerpt #1, I think Excerpt #2 definitely has some value. Prose isn’t cinema, and one of the greatest tools prose has over other narrative forms is that it makes use of imagination more strongly than others. So you can omit details at times because the mind fills them in.

    I think something I often try to do is say if I’m out on a walk, looking at the sky, trying to place it into descriptive terms, often I forget that nobody is ever going to see *my* exact sky. Even if I described it exactly, I think others would gloss over the actual description and what I was trying to do. What I can give is an inkling of that sky, an impression of what was there, a brief direction for someone else’s imagination to follow. There will always be a gap between description and the real thing, but half of the fun of novels is that it allows one to fill that gap.

    If you’re wanting to go for a rather minimalist tone in your prose, for whatever reason – for instance, if your narrative is say, from the perspective of someone depressed, or even about someone depressed, you might want to stick to no-nonsense description without frills or further ideas, and allow others to fill in the gaps. Bret Easton Ellis did this well in ‘Less Than Zero’, a novel which might be ‘plotless’ but really gets the feeling of being a vacant teenage student surrounded by vacant and shallow friends down well.

  • Beth

    Another tip I’d definitely make about dialogue is to observe how people do it in nature. A lot of writers fall into the trap of writing lines which are too cheesy/philosophical for people to actually say out loud without seeming strange. Every line that you should write should be able to be spoken.

  • WxY

    Personally, I just play the scene over in my head, with all its details; then, once it’s over, I think about what I focused on. The shops the characters pass by are forgot. The girl’s eyes shifting as she tells a white lie, and the triple repetition of the affirmation; it’s remembered. The fact that the boy had to raise his eyes to meet the girl’s, meaning that he was staring at her body; that’s remembered. The sheets that the boy was sitting on; forgot. And so on, and so forth.