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In this third part, I'll go over ways to deal with specific types of conversations and dialogue, like speeches or internal dialogue, as well as things to keep in mind. While not entirely different in rules and writing manners, they do have some elements to keep in mind ranging from things to avoid to things you could do to make things easier for the reader. Most of this is optional, however, so take it as you wish.
Let's start with one many people fall for, which is writing accents. Accents are part of real life and thus it makes sense they're part of writing, but there's a difference between hearing accents and trying to decipher what words written in an accent are supposed to be. Although anybody who's encountered people with thick accents will know it can be difficult to decipher what they're saying too.
So, how to solve accents? Simple, describe how a character speaks rather than trying to write out how they speak their words phonetically. Does this mean you can't use accented words? Of course not, just don't overdo them. As long as the reader knows what the character is saying without having to think for too long, you're good to go.
Correct: "We go o'er the hills and through the mountains," he said.
Incorrect: "We go o'er t'hills 'n thru the muntains," he said.
Correct: "We go over the hills and through the mountains," he said. He spoke with a thick German accent.
Incorrect: "We go over ze hillz 'n thru ze mountainz," he said.
Another thing to keep in mind is the context of your characters. What age they are, their position in life, their life experience, and so on. Kings and slaves speak differently, as do children and adults, and teenagers and their parents, and so on.
With the goal to write as great a dialogue as possible, sometimes people lose focus of what their character would sound like and instead focus purely on what would sound the best regardless of who says it. That isn't to say you don't want your dialogue to be somewhat superhuman, people rarely speak as intelligently and quick-witted as many fictional characters after all. But if a child is asked whether they're enjoying their food, you'd expect a short, usually simple answer, not something along the lines of: "I do indeed, mother. The richness of your tomato sauce is to die for and the texture and spice palette of these little meatballs is out of this world."
Speeches can make for great moments in a story, but they can equally make for boring moments in a story. Speeches are supposed to move people emotionally on some level, yet a common mistake people make is to leave this part out or leave it until the end of a speech. You could indeed just write a huge chunk of dialogue the speech giver is saying, and then describe how to crowd reacts, but unless the reader already cares deeply for your character, they probably won't care much for the speech. A far more effective way of writing speeches is to break it up in smaller chunks and mix them in with descriptions of how the crowd is reacting to those parts, how the speech giver is reacting to those parts and build from this. It brings about a more gradual and natural build up of energy, which, assuming the speech goes well, reaches a high point of applause, cheers, yells of "Death!" or whatever the intention of the speech is.
More info on writing speeches can be found in this guide.
Similar to how speeches can become overly long pieces of just dialogue, so too can long conversations. The solution to long conversations is simple though: describe the surrounding area once in a while to ground the characters in their world.
If they're eating or drinking something while they talk, describe it with a line or two. If they're on the move, let the reader know what they're passing. If they're sitting in a dark room, let the reader know if their eyes are adjusting to the darkness or how the darkness affects them. There's always something to describe to break up dialogue when it winds on for too long, and it only takes a line here and there to do so.
Dialogue is great, but sometimes a character remaining quiet has a far bigger impact. A character may be lost for words, think their words over before speaking, remain purposely quiet as a form of intimidation or for another reason entirely.
So instead of always trying to think of what your characters would say, also consider whether they would stay quiet and what the effect of this would be.
Internal dialogue allows the reader to know exactly what a character is thinking and who they truly are behind the words they're saying. It's by no means a mandatory tool to use, but knowing of it can help all the same. Just keep in mind a few things:
- Only write internal dialogue from the point of view of one character at a time. When multiple characters' internal dialogue are mixed or given shortly after one another, it can be confusing to the reader to know which character is thinking what. Using tags akin to the dialogue tags of part 1 can help with this too, of course.
- Keep the rules of regular dialogue and story writing in mind. While it's great to know what a character is thinking, we don't need to know every single thought nor thoughts that aren't relevant to the story itself.
- Keep emotions, stress and other factors in mind. Our inner thoughts are affected by them, and it can differ a lot from what we show to the outside world.