Write what you say, say what you mean…
Wouldn’t it be great if we all said what we meant? Even just 50% of the time?
We all know that “I’m fine” actually means “I’m sad” or “I miss my dog that passed away last year” or “I’m so hungry I could punch someone.”
If we don’t say what we mean, why would our characters?
Feedback I often received early on was that my dialogue was either 1) unrealistic or 2) my characters were too self aware.
So here’s a tip for you: chances are, your characters aren’t actually saying what they mean. Think about why? Think about how they might say “I’m hurting” or “I’m angry.”
Try writing a scene where your characters say exactly what they mean.
Then write the scene where the characters say everything EXCEPT for what they mean.
Which feels more real? Which tells us more about the characters?
It takes practice, and it takes trial and error. In Stephen King’s memoir On Writing he talks about how those who don’t listen to many conversations or who do not speak to others much have more trouble writing dialogue.
One way to work out if your dialogue feels natural is to read it out loud. I do this all the time, and you’d better believe my characters have different voices.
Want to practice? Join me in a writing sprint, and I’ll happily read along with you in character voice to help you hear the words the way you’ve written them!