Living the Dream Part 14 (Dialogue)

If you’ve been (un)fortunate enough to read my fiction work then you’ll notice that I have a penchant for including dialogue between my characters. Let’s face it; a story that includes more than one character and doesn’t feature dialogue is both rare and frankly weird. While it’s entirely feasible to tell a story of two people in close confines who don’t say anything to one another, I think you’d need to be an extremely talented writer to pull it off.

The best way to establish some kind of relationship between characters in a story is through dialogue. There can be absolutely no denying that. In fact, it’s only since I started blogging that I attempted to write stories that contained no speaking characters. Those are few and far between. Confidant and Afresh have no dialogue, though it alludes to an ongoing conversation throughout.

My novel, Revenge on the Spanish Main, is loaded with conversations between characters. If I had to guess I’d probably say the story is at least fifty percent dialogue. The relationships between characters in Revenge are absolutely pivotal. As the story is centred mainly on three young men who become friends, I felt it was a pretty basic requirement that there was a lot of interaction between them as they grow as individuals and a group.

How could I have done that without including a plethora of spoken parts? It just wouldn’t have been possible; not unless I wanted the story to completely suck!

One of the main components I try to go for when it comes to dialogue is regional dialect, especially in Revenge. I don’t mind so much when it comes to my short stories for the blog, but, where Revenge is concerned, I wanted to make an effort to write certain character’s accents. The main character, William Hart, is a well-to-do Loiner (meaning a person from Leeds); one of his friends, Edward Connery, is from Southwark in London; the other, Enrique Morales, is a fluent English-speaking Spaniard from Salamanca in Madrid.

Where Hart is concerned, I attempt to portray him as an articulate person, though with a typically northern English pronunciation of many words. With Connery, during the second edit, if a word began with ‘h’ I replaced it with an apostrophe in addition to dropping the ‘g’ at the end where they appeared. To me, that’s how Cockneys speak. However, I have since re-included the ‘h’ as certain words looked unusual starting with apostrophes. Even in spite of that, there’s a clear distinction between Hart and Connery’s spoken parts. That then brings us to Morales. While English is his second language, he’s somewhat articulate. Having been taught English the correct way (in my mind), he pronounces words correctly as well as including the minor words in sentences that British nationals often drop. To sort of stress the point that he’s Spanish and not English, he uses the occasional phrase in Spanish. Often he’ll say ‘mi amigo’ instead of ‘my friend’, while there are several instances where he’ll exclaim or curse in Spanish.

They are three examples. There are numerous other characters within, all hailing from different parts of the UK and Europe. With each character, I’ve attempted to speak what they say in my head and then type their spoken part accordingly. How editors will take to that is anybody’s guess. I’ve seen it done before. Sometimes authors have written nearly unintelligible words in order to get across their point about a character’s dialect. I’ve attempted to avoid that kind of thing.

I’m definitely interested to find out where other writers stand on the subject of dialect in their stories and writings. Is it something I put too much thought into? Are people really that bothered about seeing a Scottish character in Revenge saying ‘didnae’ instead of ‘didn’t’? Does doing such a thing really add to the story or am I giving myself more work to do? I suppose one of the pitfalls of such a tactic is that a Scottish person may read my attempt at writing Scottish vernacular and think I’ve made a pig’s ear of it. These are the chances we take.

To me, the story often seems quite bare when there’s no talking included, especially when it’s a third-person perspective. You can get away with it from a first-person perspective as the focus is entirely on the thoughts and feelings of that one person and what they can see and hear. You, as the reader, are them. In a third-person story, you’re essentially a spectator to everything. If two people are having a conversation and you’re spectating the scene then you’re unlikely to ignore the conversation and concentrate on the wall instead.

I really enjoy adding dialogue to my writing. I enjoy building the characters and their relationships through conversations they have together. After all, what do we really know about a person until we speak to them? It’s the same in a story. How can a relationship flourish if they don’t talk to one another?

Dialogue could be the meat and drink to a work of fiction that we authors don’t fully appreciate. So engrossed we become in the progression of the story that it could be that we see the dialogue as nothing more than an aside. It’s so much more than that. It’s the thing that links our characters and makes them seem more human. It can help the story grow and build tension in a much more direct way than a bunch of descriptive writing can.

Bob Hoskins said it right in the old BT commercial: “It’s good to talk!” So let your characters do the talking for your story. Have some fun and experiment with the way they converse with one another. They’re your characters. Let them have their say. Let them back up their creator with their words.


Catch up with all previous additions to this series by clicking here.

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