Writing good dialogue

Ken Levine, that wonderful blogger we don’t know (and who doesn’t know us), but whom we read whenever we can, is back with more worthwhileness. (Yeah, we know that isn’t a word. But it should be. Live with it.)

nerds-420x0by Ken Levine

Here’s one of those Friday Questions that is worth an entire post.

It’s from Kevin Rubio:

I have often heard actors in interviews take about “dialog having a wonderful rhythm…”. And notice that this comment is generally associated with shows that have well known/ respected writers – Sorkin, Whedon, Levine, etc.

Can that type of writing be taught, or is it just innate?

Well, I’m not sure I belong in that category with Sorkin and Whedon, but I appreciate it… unless you’re thinking of another Levine, which is very possible.

Learn to develop an ear for dialogue by being very observant and paying attention to the dialogue that’s all around you every day.

It’s interesting that some of the greatest English dialogue writers grew up speaking another language. Billy Wilder grew up speaking German, so did Mike Nicholls. Larry Gelbart spoke Yiddish. But I think they developed a real appreciation for words, language, and slang.

Make note of interesting expressions, colorful descriptions, usual and unusual speech patterns. Do they use a lot of crutches, are they verbose, inarticulate? Do they answer questions with questions?

People rarely speak in perfectly formed sentences. They trail off, drop pronouns, mangle grammar, spout clichés, repeat themselves, try to impress by using big words (often incorrectly), interrupt each other, stammer, change subjects in mid-sentence, pause at weird times (think Christopher Walken), talk with food in their mouths, sound distracted, and fifty other things. A common mistake writers make is giving each character well-crafted complete sentences.

Read it all – it’s worth your while

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