Thoughts on dialogue (or wrapping up Week 1 of NaNoWriMo)

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
― Joss Whedon

There was an interview I read some time ago in which Joss Whedon talked about writing dialogue for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He said that when he was writing the first draft of the screenplay, he struggled a bit with dialogue and would go to malls and listen to teenage girls talk. When he realized they were all talking like Heathers, he decided to take a more natural approach to writing dialogue and just write the way he would talk.

And, fast forward a couple of decades, Joss Whedon is arguably one of the dialogue masters of his time. I mean, anyone whose name has become an adjective (“Whedonesque”, anyone?) is clearly deserving of that title.

Dialogue isn’t something I struggle with when I write. I hear conversations in my head and rush to get them onto paper (or the screen) as quickly as I can. I actually get tripped up when I have to add those identifiers so you know who’s talking, but conversations themselves kind of just flow.

And yes, I write exactly the same way I talk. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing dialogue for a computer geek, a high school quarterback, or a parent. It all comes out the way I hear it in my head, which is the way I would say it.

I love writing dialogue. But it has to be good, like there has to be a point to it. I think dialogue for the sake of dialogue is kind of lame. Yeah, we all like to hear ourselves talk, but unless there’s a purpose to what’s being said, people kind of tune out. I guess that’s why I’m really not a Tarantino fan. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were both full of scenes that contained, in my opinion, a ton of useless dialogue that didn’t do anything to move the story forward or establish character or even break up a scene with some levity. I think words are precious and should be treated that way, not just randomly tossed about.

I’m writing a Young Adult contemporary romance, and it’s full of dialogue. I’m a little concerned that it may not read realistically to my target audience, but I figure that as long as it sounds okay in my head, it should probably work on paper, too. And if it doesn’t, well, that’s why I have Beta readers.


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