Friday, August 24, 2012

Uhhhh...dialog is hard

I've been watching the first season of Awkward, and I'm love with the dialog.  The writers are genius.  It reminds me a lot of Gilmore Girls.

Anyway, while I was watching it, I had a sort of epiphany.  Writing great dialog isn't about being witty, it's about being real.

Some of my favorite dialog from shows comes from the moment when the characters say things simply. When they say the things most of us just think.

When I'm writing in first person, sometimes my narrator thinks something. One of the wonderful things about first person narration is getting to have that peek into a character's head.  But sometimes I'll go back and take something that my character has only internalized, and have him say it out loud. It's led to some of the most genuine moments in my stories.  The lines usually aren't witty, they aren't always funny, but they're always real.

How often do we leave a situation and think of all the things we wish we could have said?  I think that great dialog takes advantage of that. It gives us the ability to live vicariously through these characters who can say the things we wish we had the balls to say.

That's why Awkward. is so brilliant.  It's why Gilmore Girls was amazing.  They're shows with real people saying real things.

If I can write dialog half as good, I'll count myself lucky.


  1. I find that dialog is both the easiest and the hardest thing to write. When it works, it usually comes out so easily, so natural. If I have to work for it, there's probably a reason the scene isn't working, and if I try to force it ... it's going to come out wack.

    1. I think you've hit the nail on this one. Forcing dialog never works. It always comes out feeling forced. I think one of my favorite books where the author manages to use futuristic slang without it feeling forced is MT Anderson's FEED. Libba Bray's Going Bovine was also really great at authentic dialog.

      Actually, that's the word I should have been using: authentic. I recently read a book that was so inauthentic that I was literally rolling my eyes as I read it. You just can't fake good dialog.


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