I enjoy writing dialogue. In fact, I’m one of those writers who lets characters call the shots a bit too much. Often, they just sit around and yak, instead of doing something to propel the plot.
Dialogue between two characters is basic and straightforward. But in my current work in progress, a group of five people is about to go somewhere and do something. (Let’s hope it’s something interesting.) Of course they’re going to talk about things, make plans, argue about details–and I’m already getting nervous about refereeing those conversations.
A few things come to mind right away…
- If the whole group is there, or even just three of them, I’ll have to supply dialogue tags or other clear indications of who says what.
- At least one person will be the silent type. When they do talk, they should say something important or at least funny.
- Each character’s style must be represented in the way they express themselves, which means I have to know all of them better than I do now. I could conduct character interviews, or try this technique described by author Richard L. Pastore.
- Dialogue will be easier if most scenes include three or fewer of the characters, which means thinking up how to get the others out of the way.
In fact, I’ve already decided someone is going to go missing. Which means the others will have to organize a search while dealing with a number of other issues. That will, of course, require more planning, discussions, and arguments, many of which will take place over meals. (Can’t starve the characters, after all.)
By the time I’m done, I’ll either have mastered the art of managing the multi-character conversation or killed off two or three of the characters.
All you writers out there must have ways of dealing with group dialogue. Any tips or tricks you would like to share?
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