Discussing Dialogue

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by TriceratopsX, Mar 18, 2019.

  1. TriceratopsX

    TriceratopsX Veteran Veteran

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    So I'm in a bit of a creative funk right now (it's currently going on day 3, >_>:rock-right: woo.) so I figured some online discussion on some aspect of game creation might help, and why not discuss one aspect I find difficult, writing character dialogue?

    Something I find myself falling into a lot, (especially with NPCs) is just writing the "barebones" dialogue when I try to make conversations with characters short. (do x to get back to the plot "insert name here!") Which is okay once in a while, but when it starts bleeding into the main character, it starts becoming a problem... Which strangely I didn't seem to have too much of a problem with this in my first "game." (of course, THAT had a myriad of other more pressing concerns either way, not least of which was the fact that it was/is so unbalanced it's unplayable)
    So I've been wondering if you guys/gals had tricks you used/or specific ways to write when writing dialogue, do you plan it out or do you wing it? Or some strange combination of the two?
     
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  2. Knighteriius

    Knighteriius The Apple Veteran

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    Hmm, when making games in the maker, I usually take character dialogue as a good opportunity to really express the given character. With random NPCs, I'll let them hint to stuff that's going on in the world, or they will talk about something random that interests them, but really doesn't matter to anyone, except the player that wanted dialogue from them. With actual plot related stuff, I feel like as long as my story is fleshed out and there is a reason why the protag and friends are there then the dialogue flows. I like to ask the question, why would the character say this? and that usually works.
     
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  3. EthanFox

    EthanFox Veteran Veteran

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    I plan mine out in advance, or at least, for "critical path" dialogue, I have bullet points about what characters need to say. I also do it in 2 passes; I always do a first, "say everything vital" pass, then a second, "finesse" pass where I go back through the dialogue and try to make it brief and punchy.

    Dialogue is a great chance to make characters express themselves, both in terms of what they say, and how they say it. I usually design these aspects of my characters in advance, and on that second pass I mentioned, I try to make sure that the character adheres to their traits - so perhaps they're nervy, or over-confident, or a chuunibyou - perhaps they're talkative, or frugal with their choice of words. You need to be careful here I think, because if you give everyone "verbal ticks" (particularly 'severe' ways of speaking) it'll become tiresome pretty fast.

    Visual novels can be a place to see some examples of this, because they have to do so much with just speech patterns and a few static images.

    Lastly, I think you can afford to be economical. Not everyone needs to be interesting; some characters just serve a function. It's like the common joke in anime, where every student in the class is kinda "normal", average build, average height, dark, straight hair... But the main character has wild, pink spiky hair and wears their uniform differently to everyone else. On the one hand it's a cost-cutting exercise, but it also helps guide the viewer to understand who is important, and who just isn't.
     
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  4. NinjaKittyProductions

    NinjaKittyProductions Professional Murder Hobos Veteran

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    @Knighteriius and @EthanFox made very good points that I myself tend to follow quite often. I would just like to add that one thing I look for with my NPCs and my playables is that I will add "regional" speech and dialect. With NPCs, I typically wing their conversations, typically hinting at 'plot' devices that could be near by but with my playables I have their speech planned out.
     
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  5. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    both.
    sometimes I have to cut a line short so it would fit within the window better, but doing so would fail to convey the point as intended.... so I have to reach out for the dictionary and find a similar word but shorter lol.

    And samtaems ye gotta Engrish et, Ye see? For them Ayelander characters, them tokking laek the'v been aut der 'wey from toown? Aye.. them be the toffest lines, I'mma fraid.
    for those, I just roll with it.... the crazier the line, the better.
     
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  6. TriceratopsX

    TriceratopsX Veteran Veteran

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    lol :D
    I tend to do fine writing "random dialogue" for npcs it's just getting the plot-relevant lines to sound like a (sometimes) normal person could say it

    Loving all the replies by the way :thumbsup-left::p
     
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  7. OmnislashXX

    OmnislashXX Veteran Veteran

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    It just comes naturally. For me, the characters always have something to say. I have to cut them off just so they can proceed with the storyline.
     
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  8. Ninjakillzu

    Ninjakillzu Veteran Veteran

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    I wing all of my dialogue initially and rewrite it if I have to. It's good to get the general idea of what you want to say out first and then revise it to fit better with what you really intend to be said. Playtesting and reading the dialogue is also important to make sure it flows well and makes sense in the context of the situation.
     
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  9. xdan

    xdan Veteran Veteran

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    First, I make characters with very defined personalities. How energic they are, how they behave in front of others, what they like and dislike, etc. This guy is a prankster, he can do this and that, he is always doing this, he is hurt if people do this to him.

    Once I know exactly who my characters are, the rest pretty much writes itself. I think about how each of them will react to each other, how they will develop their relationship, where will their personalities conflict, that sort of thing.

    I also like to give my characters an anti character that contrasts with him, so that his traits will feel more defined as a result. An energic psychopath seems worse if he's regularly interacting with a calmed pacifist, for example.
     
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  10. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    I'm not sure how much I can help. Usually, a writer doesn't have much issue putting themselves into "a new character" and speaking as if they were that character.

    So, I'm going to assume you have very little practice in writing stories in general. As a starting point, instead of creating your own unique characters, you'll want to base them off of people you know. It seems "unoriginal" and "childish", but that's what most authors do in order to get a feel for writing other characters that aren't just a form of "self insert" (all authors start by self-inserting themselves into their work. It's part of learning our craft. It's why FanFiction is so prevalent). So, you likely have little trouble writing the main character as it is probably based upon yourself. But, the other characters? Well, unless you base them on someone you know, you're going to have issues as a "first timer" keeping them consistent throughout the work and giving them proper personality.

    I recommend using people you know, because you know those people quite well. Probably even well enough that you could predict how they'd act/react in most situations and to most questions and dialogue. If you don't know many people that well... you're going to have problems. Lots of problems. Once you've written enough stories about the people you know, you kind of get a feel for how people are in any given circumstance and with any given personality.

    If you're looking to create convincing character dialogue, watch movies, read books, and go to the park and listen to people talk to each other. Or, go to a restaurant and just listen to people talking each other. Try to predict what they're going to say or do next. After a while, you get pretty good at it.

    If you're looking to create convincing characters, then there's one thing I learned, which I think every author should know: "Characters are all about interactions". That is to say, we, as people, act differently depending on who is around. How we act when we're alone is different than how we act with our Significant Other. How we act with our Best Friend is different than both of those as well. How we act when our Significant Other and Best Friend are in the same room with us also different. In essence, we change who we are, and our personality to some degree, depending on who we are interacting with and who can hear us/see us.

    The example I was cited was this:

    A group of four people, A B C and D. A acts this way when alone. A acts this way when with B. A acts this way when with C. A acts this way when with D. A acts this way when with B and C. A acts this way when with B and D. A acts this way when with B and C. A acts this way when with C and D. A acts this way when with B C and D. A acts this way when with B C and D and surrounded by strangers.

    Using that, you can tailor personalities and conversations around who is present as well as what is going on.

    Now, if you have no interest in being a writer... or no drive to be the best writer you can be... I recommend just using "Tropes" for characters. Tropes exist for a reason. You need only make those tropes your own. Tropes are fine enough to get your game moving and keep players moving along. At least, as long as nothing feels forced. Even experienced and master writers use Tropes. They're a good starting point. They're the easiest way to establish "the familiar". You can "add depth" to the tropes as you go. As you provide a backstory for the characters. Or, the story compels them to act/react in certain ways.

    Finally...

    It is not uncommon for a writer of any kind to simply rewrite dialogue. Or, use placeholder dialogue. When we reread our work, we can tell the "flow" of the dialogue and when it's "interrupted" to make it feel forced, or choppy, or nonsensical. Usually, we end up making several passes at dialogue to get it to all "flow" correctly. I call it "removing rocks from the stream", but I think most other writers call it something else. Dialogue in real life has that flow. It's awkward when someone stumbles in a conversation. Forces some piece of dialogue in real life. Says something completely out of context. Uses the wrong wording. Says something out of character. People have these stumbles in real life dialogue. However, when writing, you really aren't allowed to have these unless it's intentional. In our everyday life, we barely notice when someone "stumbles on a rock in the stream of dialogue". It's momentary. It passes. Despite how jarring it is.

    So, you make several passes at your dialogue to remove all the rocks from the stream. There's no such thing as a "final draft". There is only the draft of "this is the best I can do right now".
     
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  11. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran Veteran

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    I use dialouge to do world/charecter development. Though that's a pretty mimimal approach
     
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  12. DJK1NG_Gaming

    DJK1NG_Gaming Veteran Veteran

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    When it comes to NPC's Dialogue I follow 5 things:
    1. Pure Random - Anything Goes. Pretty much having the NPC say anything funny, sad, stupid, etc.
    2. Gossiping, Rumor talk or giving hints.
    3. Talk about Lore or the World or what going on in the world.
    4. Talk about their life or recent encounters or experiences.
    5. Dialogue is related to a certain part of a story.

    Doing this has made it easy for me to come up with dialogue.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2019
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  13. woootbm

    woootbm Super Sand Legend Veteran

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    What? This is like, the number one thing writers struggle with. Like how artists struggle with drawing faces or hands. It's tough!

    Anyway, based on what OP is saying, it sounds almost like you're doing the writing in the editor, which I feel is a huge mistake. First of all, you want to hammer it out in a regular word processor of some sort. This is not only better in terms of planning ahead, but it's also a fluid tool; you have infinitely more ability to tinker with your words than you would in that teeny tiny dialogue window the editor gives you.

    But what's more harmful, I think, is that the in-editor approach lends itself to a bigger methodology. That you're attacking this dialogue as it comes up, right in the moment. When, really, it should just be a step in a picture that's already figured out.

    Basically, a dialogue should serve a purpose. And you should already know that purpose. Whether it's revealing a character trait or getting to a plot point, you should already know what that thing is and how it turns out. When writing the dialogue for it, you are figuring out how the character(s) are reacting to or getting to that point; you are filling out blanks in a form, really. And you should know your characters, so you should have that come to you.

    For example, say you have character A, B, and C. C reveals he's betrayed A and B. What's C's reasoning why? How would his personality justify it? How does he handle the reactions of A and B? Say A is a softie. He cries and can't believe it. B is a hardass, she tells C to get lost. If you know who your characters are- their personality, how they speak, what their motivation/goal is- all the pieces should fall into place automatically. The only thing to do would be to trim it down, get the timing and wording succinct and hard-hitting, and you can build a scene naturally.

    This doesn't really apply to random villager NPC dialogue (something I think has never been a good idea in the first place anyway) but you say you don't have a problem writing that, so there ya go.
     
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  14. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    @woootbm
    Really? Writers struggle with that? The people I know as well as myself, don't seem to have any issues "stepping into" the shoes of another character. But, maybe that's because I hang out with a lot of Role Players? Learning to Role Play is a pretty good and effective tool to learning how to write characters, I guess?

    I've been making/playing games for like... my whole life (since I can first remember at age 5). I mean, I don't think I'm talented at all, but grasping the concept of "You are this other person now" has never really been an issue for me. It's sort of intuitive when you see how people act/react to things. Almost like predicting the plot of a show, a book, or a game.

    The things I've always struggled with as a writer (and that a lot of the writers I know in person) have struggled with is simple grammar/punctuation. That, and having "your own style" of writing. I also struggle with "including enough detail". I tend to write dialogue the best, and the rest of my writing... not quite so much. But, knowing where to put commas... how to structure a sentence... which words to use and when... It's like the highest hurdle I've experienced as a writer (because all grammar class ever taught me was how to diagram a sentence, which was terrible) and the people I know in person have the same sort of issues.

    I've always just kind of thought that knowing your characters was the reason anyone wrote any kind of story. I mean... once you know your characters... they tell your story using your hands. You barely do anything as a writer at that point except maybe edit what they're saying/doing to make it "flow".
     
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  15. woootbm

    woootbm Super Sand Legend Veteran

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    Well, you see now how there's different perspectives on things. From my experience, grammar/punctuation is basically a non-issue. And writing teachers and writers themselves (myself included) get really annoyed/flustered working with or having to read (like, proofreading as a favor) someone's work that's full of errors. I know I have a friend that I've started avoiding when he wants help trying to write again. I just... hate seeing obvious errors so much! He makes them so often that I don't have time to give him my opinion on his work because I would already spend all of it just doing basic editing! Agh!

    Going back to the art example, there are different things people like to do. An artist might prefer to draw landscapes, people, still life, abstract, etc. Some writers like dialogue, some like coming up with a unique premise, some like creating a twisty turny plot, and some get carried away writing up thousands of years worth of lore! What kind of story they end up writing can get those parts done well- but not dialogue- because not all writers necessarily subscribe to the notion that a story should be *characters first*.


    .....although stories absolutely should be characters first >.>;;
     
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  16. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

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    I don't plan anything ahead, but my characters always have very distinct personalities, which makes it easy to write for them. Even with writing for NPC's, you want to avoid making them all like 'just another guy on the street'. Give them their own quirks, believes and opinions. It doesn't have to be anything deep, just enough that it can lead to a fun or interesting comment made by them. Since NPC's are so numerous and come and go by the masses (depending on your game), you'll get away with basic tropes easily. Some character types I find fun for NPC's:
    -He who questions everything
    -The admirer
    -Guy in the wrong spot (ex: a firefighter who's scared of fire)
    -The arrogant know-it-all
    -The endlessly greedy businessman
    -The soldier who complains about everything
    -The doomsayer on the street
    -Group of thugs who are secretly cowards
    The list could go and on. Make characters that are fun to you and they'll start to write themselves.
     
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  17. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    This is actually the basic tenant of all storytelling. There is no story without a character. If you can't write a character, you simply can't write a story. The characters are who and what the story follows. Whether it's a story about a rock that never moves... or a story about a group of friends walking railroad tracks to see a dead body. The story is always about the characters. "Lord of the Rings" isn't about the "One Ring". It's about the characters that go on the adventure to destroy a ring.

    It is possible to write a good story with terrible dialogue. At least, as long as your characters are written well. It is possible to write a good story with terrible descriptions. At least, as long as your characters are written well. They are the subject. They are the whole point of any story.

    This is why I'm of the opinion and thought that if you're a writer, you can write characters. After all, you can't tell a story without them. It would be like claiming to be a painter without being able to even figure out how to mix colors on your palette. Writing them well is another story... but if someone is a writer or wants to be a writer... they should know how to write a character. Even if that character is little more than a trope. The very most basic concept. It is the very "bare minimum" required to write a story.

    Learning to write dialogue is the same as learning to paint brush techniques. It's something that takes time, study, and dedication. Some are good at it, some... not so good. But, the writer often knows what they're good at and can make up for it in other ways.

    I've read dialogue heavy books with very little description that captivated me and pulled me into their worlds. I've read books with very little dialogue, full of ample descriptions and prose, which also pulled me into their worlds.

    The bare minimum for writing dialogue is that it simply doesn't sound forced or clunky. That it "flows". This is likewise the bare minimum for writing imagery and descriptions. It is the equivalent to knowing a specific technique when painting. You may not be good at the particular technique, but you know how it's meant to work, and how you're supposed to use it. You make up for your lack of skill in this area by highlighting the techniques you are good at.

    After a while, you simply adopt your own style. Your own unique way of creating art based on the basics you already know and any techniques you found easy or interesting to pick up along the way.

    But, it all comes back to Characters. The bare minimum to writing. Without being able to write the most basic of characters, you can't write. It simply cannot be done. All that is required to do that is to make up their behaviors and then apply consistency to those character's behaviors across the whole story. That's it. "Character Development" is simply coming up with reasons why their behavior wouldn't be consistent across every situation. It's a technique taught or learned. "Backstory" is simply coming up with a history for the character and a believable reason why they have the behaviors they do. "World History" is simply the combined stories of every character in your world. Every one that ever lived and died and currently live and ever will live.

    Dialogue can be tricky to write, it really can. I've found that simply studying people helps with it. Listen to people. What they say, what they do, what lies they tell, the reasons for those lies, the reasons behind anything they do (most people are all too happy to explain why they do anything to you, if you ask. Most everyone loves to talk at length about themselves without much prompting). It only takes the mind to listen. To imagine. To remember. You can also listen to dialogue in movies to understand how it is constructed. You can read how it's written in hundreds of books (everyone writes dialogue differently, every author has a distinct style to it) and get examples of what you'd like and what you wouldn't like to write.

    But, it is what it is. It's a technique that often requires some study and preparation. If a person intends to write at all, they at least need to learn the baseline of what a character is and how to write one. That simply comes from a place of being able to put yourself in the shoes of someone else. Your character. Your friend. Your Significant Other. It doesn't require a lot of understanding, just a keen ability for noticing patterns and being able to make predictions based on those pattern.

    Or... just the ability to learn how to write a Trope. Trope characters can be pretty good too. But, even those require the baseline understanding of how to write a character and have their personality consistent across the entire work.

    Once you understand that much, it's easy enough to imagine dialogue and get a "rough draft" of it. Just keep making passes at it to "remove the rocks from the stream" and make it flow better.
     
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  18. atoms

    atoms Veteran Veteran

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    I agree with @woootbm on the idea of using a word processor. I think it can help at lot, as long as you actually DO write everything, all the dialogue and plot outline down and not just stare at it. I advice not to worry what you write first time, just go for it once you have enough general ideas to do so. It's ok to change many things later!

    It can be very useful, and you also know ANYTIME you want to change it, you quickly can! So you can really get to know your own story very well, and knowing that first can help accomplish everything else in a better order in my opinion.

    You might find your story teaches you how to write it better if you do it all once and then go back to it too.

    Those are my thoughts anyway, and the free program I like to use is Ywriter. Either Ywriter5 or Ywriter6, I don't use all it's features just the chapters, scenes, and dialogue, and while I do use the character section too I don't assign them to the scenes themselves, so that's what I mean by not quite every feature, but it's still really handy.

    I just think it's a very good way to at least help make the work better and easier overall.


    Of course, if someone does just put it all in the game editor, and if that does really work for them, and I mean people have complimented the writing or you have some sort of confirmation it works, then ok for you. I know we're all different so it's possible different things work for different people, but yes for me writing it all in anything like a word processer helps.


    I also have a free app I downloaded on my phone that I write in when I can't access a computer, this time it's just for ideas since it's not like a typing machine, but I can say, for example, I want character A to do B and Character C to react with D, for example, and remember it through my phone later. Also handy!
     
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