Sunday, January 8, 2012

Natural Sounding Dialogue

As authors we're always told the dialogue between our characters needs to flow naturally and sound like a real conversation. The way things are headed these days, this may no longer be an issue in the near future.


People don't talk anymore. Technology has replaced much of our face to face communication. E-mails and texts have become the main way people get in touch with each other. Smart phones have brought this trend even closer to the forefront.

Last night we were invited over to some friends' house for dinner and to watch some football. Before the meal was served, we did chat: about our weeks, how a Lasik procedure had gone, what was coming up in our lives. It was a nice way to spend a Saturday evening.

But then after dinner and clean up was over, the guys made themselves comfortable in the living room to watch some football, and the gals gathered around the dining room table. (The way this particular house is set up we were all basically in the same room.) At that point, most conversation ceased. Not because people became engrossed in the game. Nope. Five out of the eight people present took out smart phones or ipads and proceded to play games or check the internet. Suddenly what had been a very social party became a whole bunch of individuals caught up in the technology in the palms of their hands.

Snippets of conversation ensued, but usually only to ask a question about what particular word should be played next, or to ask someone to join in a game with another. As one of the three without my eyeballs literally glued to a tiny screen in front of me, let me tell you, I got bored pretty quickly.

Whatever happened to good old fashioned board games where everyone plays together and talks and laughs and chats while they do? What ever happened to having a verbal conversation with the people sitting in the same room?

(sigh) Call me old fashioned, but I miss the good old days.

So what will our characters do in the future? Text each other? Instant message each other? Play a game of "Words with Friends" instead of having a dinner date? Will their conflicts all be based around technological issues?

I guess we'll be figuring that out pretty soon the way things are going. At least we won't have to worry about that pesky dialogue anymore.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!



Morgan Mandel said...

I know I've been guilty about pulling out my iPhone in the car and checking my email for a while. It makes the time fly. Also if waiting for lunch somewhere I'll do it, but don't stay on as long.
I rarely call people on the phone, and instead email them.

I have noticed my conversational skills have been lacking lately, but I wouldn't go so far as to spend a lot of my time on the Internet while in the company of my friends for the evening.

Good point, Debra. The times have changed.

Morgan Mandel

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you need some new friends! I've never seen people so rude they'd do this, but if I did, I probably wouldn't see them twice.

Debra St. John said...

Hey Morgan,

Don't get me wrong, internet and fast connections can definitely make communicating in some ways much easier and quicker than it was before. There are definitely advantages to the way we do things now.

Anonymous, well one of them was my husband, so I'll have to see him again! (But I did let him know how annoyed I was!)

@Ruby_Barnes said...

In fact, why even go out anymore? Just order in and eat on Skype, then game online together and finish with a facebook group chat. All done in our pyjamas.

Debra St. John said...

Ooooh, staying in jammies all day?! That might make this non-face to face communication thing okay!

S. M. Boyce said...

It's not that conversation has ended or that it's on its way out...conversation has just changed.

Instead of speaking to people, we write. We read. Dialogue still needs to be believable and fluid, especially since people are reading more and hearing less.

But yes, staying in my pajamas all day sounds absolutely delightful!

-S.M. Boyce
Author of The Grimoire: Lichgates
When Kara opens the Grimoire, she’s thrown into a beautiful world full of terrifying things. There is no going back.
Click here to read the first chapter for free.

Debra St. John said...

S.M. - Good point. (I do worry about the effect texting will have on a new generation of spellers.)

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