So far, I went over the basics of writing dialogue, so once you describe what you will be using in order to describe your dialogue. It is now time for the hard part. Yep, as important as picking dialogue type is to the story, it’s only the start. To write truly good dialogue you must develop speech patterns for all of the characters in your story. So, what are speech patterns, well it’s how a person speaks the mannerisms they use while talking and their word choice. The reason this is so important is because the speech pattern your character uses helps in the development of that character threw out the storyline.
Another very significant factor is that the character must match their speech patterns. Just like in real life when you only hear someone speak, you can almost picture them just from the words they use, how fast they speak, and how deep their voice is. And whenever that picture in your head doesn’t match up to the person you see, you always have a hard time matching that voice to that person. So how do you create effective speech patterns that you can maintain throughout your whole story?
There are a few different ways I’ve read about. However, I find the easiest way is to go from real life in some way. Picture a person you have seen in real life, then think about how they speak. Now, what about how they speak affects how you picture them. This will help you recognize speech patterns and how they affect the mental image that is drawn when they speak. Usually, I watch movies for this I look at how the same actor plays different characters in different movies. I pay close attention to the words they use, and how they say the words, thinking how the speech by itself changes the mental picture of the person. Closing your eyes and just listening for a while will let you pick this out with ease. It will also let you hear the different characters in whatever you’re watching just by their voice. Do this enough and you can tell almost everything about the moment just from the voice and words. Now try and put descriptive words to everything you hear, do your best to describe how they are speaking as if you’re telling it to someone who can’t hear it.
Now comes the part with the actual work, but it also pays off the most. It’s time to create a speech pattern unique to one character. First thing is before your character says their first word think about that character, their height, weight, and build. Then think about what that character will be in your story. Will they be the funny one, the serious one, the sad one or maybe the intellect. Now that you have a picture of them in your mind, make them speak their first words. Remember the first words are what set that character’s image in the reader’s mind and it will set what the reader expects from that character from then on.
I will give an example (“soooo… today I went down to the store and oh my god you would not believe what I saw! ” Kailey said, rolling her eyes popping her gum and twirling her fingers in the end of her hair.) You read that and I didn’t even have to describe her for you to have an instant picture. The lack of a comma before “and” made the sentence run on, giving a feeling of speaking quickly, then the description of how she was speaking painted a picture that was completed by the words I used. Now the same sentence spoken by a different person. (“So, today I went down to the supermarket, and you wouldn’t believe what I saw there.” John said, pulling a bag from the back seat of his convertible.) The words were almost the same, and the meaning was the exactly same. However, it painted a completely different picture altogether. Even though the change to the words was small the picture painted was night and day. To a slight grammar change and different descriptions, something that seems almost meaningless had the most impact on the reader’s view of the character.
Showing just how easy it is to affect the image of a character just by the words alone. Which in turn will help you develop that character. But in order to do so you must keep the speech pattern for that character consistent throughout your story. Now it’s time for a big tip to assist in this and it comes from rereading your work. One of the first things I do when I reread my work is to check how many characters I have, if I have two or three well as long as it’s not just one really, then I don’t just reread.
What I do after I finish a story with many characters is I do a quick check of the speech in the whole story. No reading the whole thing just the words spoken by the characters, a quick search for quotation marks helps this go faster. When I do this read, I’m not looking for context or descriptions of the speech. I’m looking for the words and grammar, even punctuation I utilized. I look and make sure each character is using words that match the first thing they said. Such as a character that used “you are” instead of “you’re” should always use “you are” when talking. Same for characters that use long run on sentence, they should stick to that threw out the story.
After I do this first quick read I reread the story as a whole, paying close attention to the description words I use, I even try to repeat them a bit with the same characters. I also try and switch between long descriptions and short ones in the same scene. This allows for impact with long description, also a clear picture when the characters began to speak. Then short descriptions to keep unnecessary words down, if the character doesn’t change their demeanor. This helps the story flow, keeps the reader engaged, and helps keep the speech pattern of each character easy to manage.
Go through your work and look at every character, as their own living person with speech and looks all to themselves. Picture the way they speak in your story and then picture what comes out of their mouth without thinking of them as a character you created. See if that matches what you wrote for them and go from there.
So that about says it on speech patterns so for the next lesson in Write Like Your Life Depends On It, will be how much should your characters talk and when they shouldn’t.
So until next time remember to, Write like your life depends on it. Because it doesn’t.
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