Dialogue is a key element to any story. It’s used to show conflict, advance the plot, expose characterization, and explore theme. Here’s an exercise that can help you improve your dialogue.
Take one of your scenes and convert it into a screenplay. You can look up screenplay formats on a website such as this, but it’s not the format that’s important for this exercise. What you’re focusing on is that when you write a screenplay, you don’t get the luxury of inner monologue, the character’s thoughts, adverbs and adjectives, and dialogue tags.
Your dialogue has to carry itself on its words alone. Yes, you can add parentheticals, but they should be few and far between, and only when necessary.
Parentheticals: These are used within dialogue to describe what a character is simultaneously doing, who she’s talking to, or how he is speaking.
Parentheticals also take up space, slow your pace, and annoy actors, who don’t like being told how to say their lines; try to only use parentheticals where notusing them would lead to confusion…
Visualizing your scene as a movie can help in many aspects, not just dialogue. Books never translate directly into movies, partly because of the things mentioned above, but visualizing your scene as through a camera lens can be helpful, too.
For the comments:
Share your results! Did this exercise help you? Did it show you weak spots in your dialogue? Give you ideas on how to make it stronger?
Are you planning on NaNoWriMo’ing this year? Should we do NaNo-themed writing exercises at Novel Novice? Would you prefer pre-planning exercises for October or encouragement throughout November?