Lesson 9 - Dialog
Have your characters talk to each other. Focus on two characters first.
Do not have them explain the plot. Just think of normal conversation between these characters. Let the plot happen. It is more important that your characters seem real and are having real conversation. Keep the plot in mind and in the back of your head, but let the characters talk first. Help us to get to know them through the way they speak.
Read the dialog out loud, ideally with another person. Does the dialog feel natural, like real speech? If not, try rewriting the dialog.
Do the two characters sound different?
In the Wizard of Oz, you’ll notice that Dorothy speaks differently than the people from Oz. And many of the characters have their own way of speaking.
Do you see any difference in the way these characters speak?
Miss Gulch: [stopping bicycle and getting off] Mister Gale!
Uncle Henry Gale: Well, howdy, Miss Gulch.
Miss Gulch: [comes into the Gales' yard] I want to see you and your wife right away about Dorothy!
Uncle Henry Gale: Dorothy? Well, what has Dorothy done?
Miss Gulch: What she's done? I'm all but lame from the bite on my leg!
Uncle Henry Gale: Oh! You mean she bit you?
Miss Gulch: No, her dog!
Uncle Henry Gale: Oh, she bit her dog, eh?
[Uncle Henry tries to shut the gate, but it hits her on the backside]
Miss Gulch: [exasperated] No!
I would say that the pacing is different. Miss Gulch’s speech is to the point and Uncle Henry takes his time and also has a playfulness to his speech.
In this next example, you’ll see a clear difference between Dorothy and the Witch. Dorothy is very young sounding and focused on her dog, unaware and innocent. The witch sounds older and analyzes the situation which comes out in her words.
Dorothy: [Toto is held hostage by the Witch and one of her monkeys] What are you gonna do to my dog? Give him back to me!
Wicked Witch of the West: All in good time, my little pretty. All in good time.
Dorothy: Oh, please give me back my dog?
Wicked Witch of the West: Certainly. Certainly. When you give me those slippers.
Dorothy: But, The Good Witch of the North told me not to.
Wicked Witch of the West: Very well.
[to her flying monkey]
Wicked Witch of the West: Throw that basket into the river and drown him!
Dorothy: No, no, no! Here... You can have your old slippers. But, give me back Toto!
Wicked Witch of the West: That's a good little girl. I know you'd see reason!
[the Witch stoops to steal the shoes. But, fire burns Dorothy's toes and the Witch's hands. she reacts in pain]
Wicked Witch of the West: Ohhhh!
Dorothy: I'm sorry! I didn't do it. Can I still have my dog?
Wicked Witch of the West: No! Fool that I am! I should have remembered! Those slippers will never come off as long as you're alive. But's that not what's worrying me. It's how to do it. These things must be done delicately or you hurt the spell.
When writing dialog, consider your character’s ages and motives. Giving them unique slang and phrases is helpful too. In the Uncle Henry example, you’ll see he says “oh” and “well” a lot and even throws in a “howdy” which fits his character well.
ASSIGNMENT 9A: Write a short scene between two of your characters and have them discuss something. Read the dialog out loud, ideally with another person. Does the dialog feel natural, like real speech? If not, think about how your characters are different and give them some unique ways of speaking, including slang and phrases they like to use.
ASSIGNMENT 9B: What is a movie or tv show or book you enjoy with two really different characters in a scene together? Is their dialog and way of speaking different from each other? In what ways do the characters speak differently? Post your answers in the blog post below.
If you need help at any time, type up your notes and email your question and your notes to me at firstname.lastname@example.org