Recording conversations is one of the best ways to get an in depth understanding of the difference between a real conversation and written dialogue.
When you’re making these recordings you will likely find that there are long pauses in the dialogue…the conversation will change topic and direction abruptly…new conversations will pop up like weeds in a garden and trail off into nowhere.
This is the natural progression of a dialogue in reality.
But, If we were to portray this within the context of a novel the reader would lose interest very quickly. Zzzz…
Fiction is a form of art. As artists, writers must portray dialogue not only artfully but art-ificially.
Art is an artificial representation of life.
But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be accurate.
So, when recording conversations, the trick is to portray the essence of the conversation in a focused dialogue that will not lose the reader.
So let’s take a look at a few ways to do this.
Younger writers often overlook body language as a part of dialogue. But, 65-70% of communication is done through body language.
Listen to your recorded conversation. Do you hear all those gaps in speech and empty spaces? This is when we are communicating by saying absolutely nothing.
So, when you are writing dialogue, do not forget to integrate descriptions of physical motion as well.
This will help create realism as well as break up the conversation. Without enough description of the characters movement it could become two people yacking at each other.
“Yada, yada, yada.”
“Blah, blah, blah.”
…and that’s a real story killer.
It’s Just Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It
Since 70% of communication is done though body language this means that the remaining 30% is not just what we say but how we say it.
Listen to your recorded conversation again.
Do you hear the changes in intonation?
If it is a casual conversation about the weather the changes will be subtle. But if it is a more emotionally charged conversation between two lovers or two enemies they will be obvious.
So How Do We Portray This?
Well, fortunately, the best way is, again, through body language.
If someone is telling you something with their hands on their hips, or shaking their finger at you, this implies a certain tone. Doesn’t it?
The reader will understand without you having to come right out and say it.
Refer To Their Surroundings
In your recorded conversation do the speakers refer to things around them? Probably.
You must too, or the reader will get the impression that the conversation is taking place in a bubble on the dark side of the moon.
For example: two characters are talking as they pass a hotdog stand. One of them says she’s hungry.
They stop and order.
But they continue their conversation occasionally referring to hotdogs .
“Do you want relish on that?”
By recording conversations you will have a much better sense of how humans communicate.
And by using these techniques to portray the spaces and indirections of a real conversation your dialoguewill be much more interesting and, surprisingly, realistic.