re: How Reading John Green Can Help Your Dialogue

posted 8/30/13

Dear Editor…

I’m really struggling with writing dialogue that sounds like real people talking. Can you throw a struggling writer a tip?

Thanks,
Tongue-Tied

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Dear Tongue-Tied…

Try something that helps John Green’s dialogue and first person narration feel casual and thus “real”: He replaces the articles a, an, and the with the demonstrative adjectives this and these. From The Fault in Our Stars: “There was this tunnel that these two kids kept crawling through over and over…” When I sub in the usual articles, the sentence gets stiffer and thus feels less like a real person talking: “There was a tunnel that two kids kept crawling through over and over…” I prefer the subtlety of this technique to writing you know or like into dialogue. Give that a whirl and see how it works for you. Mix it in with other techniques, of course, as variety helps give writing a natural flow.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Dialogue, Narrative Voice
posted by: The Editor
under: Dialogue, Narrative Voice
Comments to "re: How Reading John Green Can Help Your Dialogue" | Add a Comment
    1. Michael Gettel-Gilmartin wrote (on 08/30/13 at 11:59 am) :

      I can see how certain characters would say either. The thing I’ve always believed about dialogue is that it’s specific to characters. And “real” people come in multitudinous shapes and sizes.

      [Reply]

    2. Teresa Robeson wrote (on 08/30/13 at 4:32 pm) :

      I see what you mean, and I’m pleased to note that I have done this subconsciously. 🙂

      [Reply]

    3. Laura C. wrote (on 08/30/13 at 9:01 pm) :

      That is BRILLIANT! I’ve never heard of that before and can’t believe how great it worked in your example. Thanks so much! 🙂

      [Reply]

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