Dialogue for characters

by Daniel
(Warrington)

Hello there,

I'm Danny and I'm working on a novel at the moment that is a historical fiction set in ancient Greece aimed at teenagers. I am having some trouble (it is only a first draft at the moment so I'm not too panicked yet) with developing characters. The dialogue between them feels a bit hollow and there doesn't seem to be enough of it.
One reason for my dilemma is that the story is really about the events that transpire and the characters actions rather than their thoughts or feelings about them. Another problem is that it is heavily influenced by greek tragedy and in greek tragedy the whole play is usually performed by about 5-6 characters (counting the chorus as a single character), this gives each main character a lot of responsibility in bringing the story forward, and the bit characters who have only a minor role need a lot of development.
I suppose really what I'm looking for is advice on making the interactions between the main characters more dynamic and meaningful.
Any advice would be much appreciated
Many thanks
Dan

Answer: Hi Danny,

I suspect you already know the answer. You have to develop your characters. The better you know who these people are, their wants, fears, preferences, values, background, etc, the easier it will be to write authentic dialogue for them.

There are lots of ways to do this, but here's a simple technique...

1. For each character, make a point-form list of everything you know about them.

2. Now make a list of questions you have about the character. Make it a long list, and don't worry about the answers just yet. Set this list aside for a day or so.

3. Now go over the questions and jot down as many possible answers for each question. Set this aside for another day.

4. Go over all the possibilities and choose the ones you like, the ones that make you love the character, the ones that work best together and make your character best able to fulfill the role you have in mind for them.

5. Feel free to repeat this process. It may be time consuming, but the more you do this, the more real your characters will seem to you and the easier it will be to imagine what they will say or do in any situation.

Of course, if you have characters who come from distinct cultural backgrounds, you may need to do a bit of research to get their voices right, which is a whole other area. But this should get you started.

Best of luck.

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