Posts tagged speech
Posts tagged speech
Yesterday, I got rejected by Space and Time. Soon after the e-mail came in, I took a good, hard look at my short story to see if I could improve anything for the next magazine I submitted it to (Lightspeed Magazine). It mostly looked good, but one thing I noticed was that when I wrote the dialogue between the two main characters, I wasn’t keeping certain things in mind that I should have. Hopefully, you guys can learn from my mistakes. Here are some things you should think about while writing dialogues.
With these in mind, your dialogues should turn out much more realistic.
The follower of the day is optionalcake.
If I met you right now and we got to talking, I might steer the conversation towards humor and jokes, since it’s something everybody can relate to. Maybe I would share some of my favorite websites with you or have a lengthy discussion about books once we got to know each other. I would do these things not because books and websites and jokes are important things that you have to know about but instead because I’m the kind of person who naturally converses about such topics.
The same should hold true for your characters. You’re not expected to include every little conversation they make about the humdrum things in their lives, but when they talk, it should be them talking, not the plot. I’ve written earlier about how characters say things, but what they say is just as important.
When you write dialogue, you really need to ask yourself if your character would really say what you’re having them say. If they wouldn’t, there are better ways to advance the plot. There isn’t a single villain in the universe who would tell his plan again to a room of people who have already heard it and “excuse” his behavior by prefacing the plan with “As you already know.” The same applied for heroes: if your boyfriend already has a firm grasp on what your powers do, you aren’t going to explain them again when you actually use them.
Exposition and plot development are fine and dandy, but they should only emerge from dialogue if the character would actually say those things.
The follower of the day is mycurrentproblem.
Most people have figured out by now that it’s kind of silly for creatures from another planet to speak English. When aliens are talking to other aliens, it’s implied that the words are being translated into English for the viewers. If aliens need to talk to humans, they usually have some sort of translation device with them. Science fiction authors who are serious about portraying things realistically wouldn’t dream of having the aliens land on Earth and just happen to speak the same language.
So, naturally, they avert the horrors of aliens speaking English by having the occasional untranslated sentence of the aliens’ language floating around.
This is like saying “I don’t want my aliens dancing the Charleston, because that’s too human, so I’ll have them do a dance I made up instead.” Yeah, but they’re still dancing.
The aliens will most likely have a method of communication. However, the likelihood that this language is verbal would be astronomically low. (Hee hee, astronomically. That pun was totally intentional.) We have five senses. There are probably obscure methods of communication using the others that I don’t know about, but we verbally talk, we read visually the written word and visually communicate via informal body language and formal sign language, and blind people feel the bumps of braille. Verbal communication happens to be the most widely used. In a species that evolved under completely different conditions than Earth life, the aliens might have special footlike things that cause vibrations in sequence on the ground that are used as communication. (There go the dancing aliens again…) Smell is often ignored. There are even ways that taste could be used as communication. Not to mention the fact that aliens might have entirely different senses. It’s not that alternate forms of communication to speech aren’t used. It’s just that verbal communication is used so often, when it’s only a small step up from aliens speaking English. When you make your aliens, consider giving them a way of talking to each other without making a single sound.
This can also be used for fantasy races or supernatural beings, though there is a bit more justification for giving them speech than there is for extraterrestrials.