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Leading Your Scene by the Coattail of Dialog

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Fri Aug 10, 2007 8:59 pm
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Emerson says...

Have you ever had a scene where you really, really need the dialog to play a large part of the story? You have the scene written, you read over it. It sounds great, right? Then you read it a few more times. Yeah… You’re getting everything across, but the dialog is flat. You feel nothing. It doesn’t flow. The description is beautiful, but ew. The dialog is so fake and the characters react poorly.

Okay, so that is a very terribly written example, suck it up, I’m getting somewhere.

If you have a scene where you need the dialog to be important, rather than the small details, it’s a serious problem if your dialog tanks entirely, and is boring. How are earth are you going to fix this?


I heard this lovely, lovely tip once. I forget where. Oh well, I get the credit for it now Razz

Take your scene. Kill all the description, dialog tags, introspection, and other things that aren’t dialog. Convert it into a play/script. Start writing. By doing this, you’re ripping your scene apart and stripping it into the bare dialog. Good job!

And what if the dialog still sounds nasty, in its purest form?


We all know writers are a little loopy, but this time I’m giving you the complete right to be crazy. But make sure no one is in the house, or your parents won’t give you weird looks. Lock the door for good measure.

Read the dialog that you write in script form aloud. Give each character their own voice through yours. Talk the way they would saying their lines. You’ll feel a little crazy, but that’s okay! We forgive you for you oddities.

By doing this, you’ll better be able to spot the lines that are very bland, and the stuff people wouldn’t actually say. Edit accordingly. If you have someone you really trust, make scripts and work together. I’m sure someone else will be able to give you really good advice on what Jane would say in reply to her husband telling her, “Honey, I’m pregnant!” A second set of ears are really nice.


Alright, so you have your nice dialog right? Put it aside. (Yes, you hate me.) Start the scene over, and rewrite it, with all the pretty dialog in mind. (Yes, you can copy word for word the dialog, but if you are paying more attention to where you are putting the dialog within the text and copying it over, everything that isn’t dialog will be nasty.) Pay attention to the dialog tags. (Too many, too little?) Make sure you pay attention to the descriptions, give your characters hand gestures, like them play with their hair if they’re nervous, dance, mess with things in the room.

I’ve been told I’m really good at dialog, but I always neglect everything else while writing dialog because my scenes are lead entirely by dialog. This is a problem. So pay close attention to everything else while writing, but do not sit and look at it either! Write freely, you can go back and fix it later.

Now that you have all your none-dialog very pretty and nice, pull out the perfected script from the last activity. Glare at it, then glare at your scene. Fix the dialog (match it up, etc) accordingly. Now that you have really awesome dialog, and really awesome none-dialog with places for the dialog, it’s wonderful. Add things in, edit accordingly; make it even cooler than it was in the first place.

And, Il le y a! You have just lead your scene by the coattail of dialog, and it is amazing.
“It's necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

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Sun Sep 30, 2007 12:06 pm
Jasmine Hart says...

That's a great tip, thank you! I'll have to give that a go.
"Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise."
-Maya Angelou

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