Writing Dialogue: Don’t Freak Yourself Out

“If you develop your own voice, your characters will inevitably find theirs.”

—Lucy (Bang2write) on her blog for screenwriters, Write Here, Write Now

RELEVANT TO ALL fiction writers (not just screenwriters), Lucy gives sensible advice on her blog about creating realistic dialogue.

I particularly liked her blog post, What Are You Talking About (opens in a new window), where she covers cliched dialogue for men and women. In other words, things to avoid if you want your male and female characters to sound plausible.

But possibly her best advice was to not stress yourself out about dialogue.

My online course students often come in with preconceived notions about their supposed inability to write dialogue. These kinds of fixed mental beliefs are usually more of a problem than the writing itself.

Most writers have an inborn ability to write dialogue. BUT, as with almost everything in life, it takes practice. Give yourself time to find your sea legs.

A writer who is too afraid to let herself write any dialogue (for fear it will suck) is holding herself away from the one thing that could eventually make her good at it: the act of getting comfortable in her own writing skin.

Give yourself permission to write something less than scintillating. It’s doggone crazy to expect yourself to be perfect, or even good, when you’re first getting the hang of something.

Don’t worry about writing “good” dialogue. Focus on your characters. Care about them and who they are. Set the intention to allow your characters to express themselves in the style each character needs.

You might chop a bunch of it out later, but who cares? Just get them talking to one another.

You can even interview them: find out how they feel about a whole range of topics.

The better you know your characters, the more in touch you’ll be with how they’re going to want to express themselves. And the less hang ups you’ll have about whether you’re doing it right. It’s not about you. It’s about letting your characters be who they are.

Trying to control the process when you’re writing that first, raw draft is a good way to cramp your own style. Polishing and honing is for the rewriting stage. That’s when you’ll want to be more in control. But in the heat of the moment—when your story’s first spilling out—that’s the time when you should aim to be the most unselfconscious about your writing.

Being comfortable in your own skin is far more primal than technique or “doing it right.”


Write There (Part I): Realizing Your Own Writing Style
Write There (Part II): Changing Gears as a Writer
Write There (Part III): Style Is Not a Mystery

2 Responses to Writing Dialogue: Don’t Freak Yourself Out
  1. Homeopath
    February 18, 2009 | 3:48 PM

    Just found your blog….. Interesting…..I’ll be back to read more.

  2. Lucy
    February 20, 2009 | 2:19 PM

    Hey Milli, thanks for the link and shout-out… And for your comments over at my place! xxx

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?