Hi, ya'll! This is Vika. I’m traveling right now, but I wanted to continue to talk about believable writing, specifically believable dialogue. Again, these are just my ideas, so please comment back with your ideas and corrections and tell me what you think. I can always go back and edit this post to make it better! Thanks, and enjoy my “lesson!” I can't wait to hear from ya'll! Vika
What Is Believable Dialogue?
Ealier, I decided to define believable writing as writing which seems real enough that the reader believes that it is real throughout the story. You can find that post here: Believable Writing (Post One). Using that logic, believable dialogue must be dialogue that sounds like it comes from real people and maybe animals. After thinking about that for a while, I realized that when writing believable dialogue, it is important to think about different attributes of dialouge, right? So far, I’ve only identified these five attributes: actions, accents, dialects and phrases, thinking and feelings, and ways of talking for each character.
Actions In Believable Dialogue
Pay attention to one of your friends or family next time you are talking to them. Do they have any habits when they talk, like tilting their head when they are confused or fiddling with their fingernails? If they get mad, do they stomp their feet or cross their arms? If sad, do they cover their faces or turn away? These actions help show how they are thinking and feeling when their words might not make it clear, right?
When you are writing dialogue for your characters, remember to use actions to help the reader picture the scene and remember how the characters feel. Additionally, adding in actions can sometimes make it clear who is talking, especially if you have a long conversation with little description in between. Sometimes, I include a character’s actions near their words instead of saying “he said” or “she said.” This isn’t always clear enough, but I try to do this mainly when I don’t want “he said” and “she said” to distract be reader from the scene. For example, I might say something like “‘Brilliant!’ He clapped his hands dramatically.” Do you guys do that?
Accents In Believable Dialogue
According to my English teacher, every character in dialogue should have a different way of talking. To be honest, I thought she was exaggerating until I looked in the book The Trumpet Of The Swan by E.B. White, which you can find an OverDrive sample of at this link. I really recommend the book, by the way.
Surprisingly, every character in that story has a different way of talking. The main character, a trumpeter swan named Louis, can’t communicate out loud, so his thinking is italicized and the rest of his speech is words written on a chalkboard. His father always talks in long phrases and doesn’t get to the point quickly. In contrast, Louis’s mother tends to interrupt and get to the point right away. His siblings all talk in short bursts and beeps, and so on.
So, one thing that can help with making each character in your story sound a little different is if some of your characters have an accent. You can even misspell the words they once in a while so sounding out your spelling will make the reader imitate the accent, which can be really funny!
Anyway, here are a few examples showing how a simple phrase, like “This is my house,” can be written with an accent. Maybe you can think of a few more, but these are just a few that come to mind. Or, you can watch videos like the ones below, and try to write down the accents of the character. Feel free to do both!
- Zees ees ma-yah how-sah.
- Dees ees mai ha-oos.
- Dis. Iz. Mye. House.
- Zis is ma-ee how-s.
When writing about a character with an accent, make sure to be consistent about what kinds of sounds your character cannot pronounce. You might also want to tell the reader about the accent when you introduce the character.
On the other hand, though, I think that having every character speak with a different accent could get annoying, like when you read an old book or classic from hundreds of years ago and the language is too hard to understand. I guess the way to avoid this is to use really similar accents, like one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, does in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, a book that can be hard to read and is meant for older readers. In fact, Mark Twain even puts a note in the book to explain his dialects and accents. If you really want, you can find a free electronic copy of the book here: Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. Keep in ind that the book was written around a hundred years ago, but it still talked about today!
Oh, and here are the videos. I got both of them off of YouTube, and made sure they were appropriate first!
Note To Readers Under The Age Of Eight: If you are less than eight years old, you should probably watch the second one with an adult’s permission, especially if you don’t watch violent movies or television. This is because some fire is used in the clip.
From the musical Annie Get Your Gun (Look, there is slang in the title!):
From The Princess Bride (This is the video kids under the age of eight might want to ask permission for):
Dialects and Slang In Believable Dialogue
Do you have a favorite thing to say when you are really surprised? What about when you are amazed? Phrases like these can also help distinguish your characters and help make the setting clear. Here is the beginning of my list for synonyms (words that mean the same thing) for good, but you can always check out thesaurus.com or a thesaurus dictionary for more words with the same meaning. If you think about it, maybe different people in different areas and with different backgrounds would use some of these, depending on their story.
And, of course, you can add on in the comments below and help make this list longer.:-)
- Best Ever
- On Top
A dialect is like a version of a language which is spoken only by a certain group of people who live in a similar area or have a similar job or hobby. These dialects often have slang, too. Here are some examples of the same message, “This is my house,” but with some slang and dialects added in.
- This’s ma house.
- It’s my house, man.
- Dude! This is my house.
- This is my house, ‘Kay?
- Like, girl! This is, like, my house.
And then, maybe the person saying this will continue. Here are some ways to invite someone in with a dialect. How would you say it? What about your friends?
- Ya wanna come in?
- Let me show you inside.
- Come on in.
- Get in here!
- Gecha self in.
- Can’t ya come visit?
- I’mma letcha in now. C’mon!
- You’re just in time for dinner. Do join us.
Sorry if I offended anyone with my interpretations!
Thinking and Feelings In Believable Dialogue
When writing believable dialogue, it is important to make sure the opinions of each character are shown the way you want them to be. One way that you can do this is by adding in their thoughts, especially if you are writing in first person. Or, their actions can give away their feelings. Also, you could add in description, like “Laura blushed,” or “His face turned purple.” If you are writng in first person, thir feelings could also be reflected in the way they describe or talk about something. This could be if they introduce a person or place as stupid even though the reader, from experience, doesn’t think it is.
Another thing you might want to think about is that you need to make sure that you know what the reader believes your characters are thinking. Maybe you can check out this example for some ways of adding thinking from the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s a really good book, and was even made into a movie!
Ways Of Talking In Believable Dialogue
When your characters talk, you might use phrases like “he said” or “she said.” Keep in mind that you might benefit from using other words that mean talking. Again, check out thesaurus.com or a thesaurus dictionary for some words if you are out of ideas, but also feel free to add onto my list.
Now Your Try!
Using a cellphone or other mobile device, record a conversation between you and your friends. You might want to ask first, but be careful to make sure your friends don’t act differently because of the camera. Maybe you can say you will record sometime during an hour or a day, and do it during one short part of the conversation.
Later, write a transcript, or script of what is said, for the video. Look at the way you and your friends talk and record some of the actions, accents, and slang, in your conversation. You can also write the words you and your friends say into a story to practice including different ways of talking and adding thinking and feeling. Have fun and please comment below with your ideas, thoughts, and discoveries!