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Dialogue - Part One

Dr Manjiri Prabhu

Updated: September 12, 2012, 1:06 PM IST
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Dialogue is the conversation, usually between two people or two or more characters. Sometimes, it can be dialogue a character has with himself/herself. These are his thoughts or reflections which can appear in the form of conversation with his/her inner mind.

There are some important facts about writing dialogue that a writer must remember. First, when you write dialogue, it must seem natural and realistic. The word realistic, however can be very deceptive. Too much realism could lead to confusion!

Here's an example of how a verbatim dialogue can appear in print!

"Give me a cup of chai yaar! Hi Rakesh, what's up? Yeah man, last night (the cell phone rings) excuse me-Bolo! Where are you, man? I've been hanging out in the canteen for ages- Arre yaar, how much time for my chai? And get me a bun with the chai, hurry up - Rakesh, don't go man, I want tell you something, sit down. Huh? Bolo? No no, it's only Rakesh. Forget that, you tell me when are you coming-Arre baba! You'll spill the tea on my clothes. . ."

And so on and so forth. . .

This is a word-to-word recreation of the conversation of a boy sitting in a canteen, talking to the canteen waiter, Rakesh and someone on the cell phone-all at once. You can go on and on with this kind of a dialogue, but achieving absolutely nothing at the end of it. Obviously to make this dialogue meaningful and expressive you need to 'write' the dialogue. Which, quite simply means that you have to use your literary skills and make the dialogue appear 'realistic', by using words and expressions that are not really lifted verbatim, from the day to day idle chitchat.

One way of doing this is to 'talk' your dialogue. I usually follow a simple technique. While I'm writing the dialogue, I am also speaking it, either in my mind or aloud. Sometimes I repeat my lines aloud after the piece is written. This helps in understanding if the dialogue is sounding stilted or unnatural. If the words roll effortlessly like in a conversation, I know that I've come as close to reality as possible. But if it sounds odd or completely unrealistic, I know that I have to change it.
Try this exercise. Write a dialogue between two girls-old school-mates. The last time they met, which was several years ago, they had a massive fight and swore never to talk to each other again. But now they are seated next to each other on a train. What do you think they would say to each other? Resolve old issues, or ignore the past?

More in the next post. . .

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First Published: September 12, 2012, 1:06 PM IST

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