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Dialogue

Hi everyone, I've always had difficulty making dialogue distinctive for each character - and I love it in books when you can read a passage of dialogue and you immediately know which character is talking without having to be told. (I think Natasha Pulley's 'Watchmaker of Filigree Street' is genius at this!) Does anyone have any advice?

Asked by: Hannah Hunt

  1. Richard Elder 3 days ago

    Hi Hanna
    I always read my characters dialogue aloud and separate from everything else I've written in the scene. Doing this brings the conversation into the 'real world' and helps you assess whether or not it sounds natural. As regards 'who' is speaking; as Jonathan rightly says, too much accented dialogue quickly becomes tiring for the reader. Other things you can do to differentiate characters speech are: poor use of grammar, dropping the 'g' off words ending in 'ing', giving a character a stammer, ums and aahs, double spaces between words for a slow pace of speech, using the wrong words, for example, to suggest a confused state of mind, statements overloaded with adverbs, lots of swearing, short sharp phrases.

    I hope this is of help. Richard

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  3. Jonathan Hopkins 2 weeks ago

    I'm lucky in that I have two MCs from opposite ends of the 19th century social spectrum,so their speech differs quite considerably. It's secondary characters I sometimes struggle with, particularly those of similar social standings.
    Accents help, but you don't want to overdo them or they can become tiresome, especially in a regularly-appearing secondary. I've had one character with a strong regional accent in one scene, but he only had a few lines and will never appear again. No-one's complained about him, anyway!
    I have found reading a passage out loud useful - it can help highlight speech where the speaker's not quite clear enough without an identifier, even when there may only be two characters in the conversation.

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