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Banes at 12:00AM, Aug. 10, 2017

Last Thursday I talked a little about writing a scene, in terms of the change that happens, what the character wants, and what obstacle is in the way of achieving that want.

But what about dialogue? Eh?

One way to help define what's going on in a scene is to write some “on the nose” dialogue.

This is dialogue that expresses what the characters are thinking and feeling, and STATES what they want. Writing this kind of dialogue can give you a clearer sense of what's going on in the scene.

But once you've figured that out, you're gonna want to change that dialogue to something…off the nose?

The thing is, people don't generally say exactly what they're thinking and how they're feeling. To give you a f'rinstance, I've never ONCE expressed an actual genuine emotion or thought. That's a whole other story, though.

So if you can have clarity on the mechanics of the scene, with the wants, obstacles, and type of conflict and behavior that's going on, you can try to move the dialogue away from that. Maybe have minimal to no dialogue at all. Or have the characters HIDING their true intentions in some way.

Honestly, I find myself writing “on the nose” dialogue more often than I'd like, to get the point across.

But when I can have characters hiding their true intentions, lying, or denying, the scenes are much better. And when readers comment and say what they think the characters are actually thinking and feeling…well, reading those comments is maybe the single greatest thing about being a webcomic creator. At least for me.

How do you approach writing dialogue in your comics? Any thoughts on what makes “good” or “bad” dialogue?

Have a good one!



AmeliaP at 6:29PM, Aug. 11, 2017

"Any thoughts on what makes “good” or “bad” dialogue?" Bad dialogue for me: when no information (or mood, or character, or... you know) is delivered by dialogue. If the characters open their mouths, this has gotta be worth it. But rarely I find dialogues bad... Very good topic! And thanks for those tips above.

Avart at 5:59PM, Aug. 10, 2017

Excellent topic Banes! I'm not a big fan of including too much dialogues, I rarely put more than two balloons in one panel mostly for aesthetic reasons. So, I need to include more panels in a chapter to tell my story, but for me it works because I think it's also important what the characters DON'T say and here's where body language comes in.

Albino Ginger at 1:28PM, Aug. 10, 2017

I make "bad" dialogue...

Gunwallace at 1:26PM, Aug. 10, 2017

The nose knows!

Tantz_Aerine at 9:22AM, Aug. 10, 2017

I also hit the word limit so here's the rest XD (btw excellent topic) After the tone and style of each character is determined you need to know how they react to situations, and reflect that in their verbal responses. Dialogue, being a simulation, is 'on the nose' to a degree by nature but in the same time, each character might have different strategies of expressing what they want- blunt or wordy, with hints or with passive aggressive remarks, with metaphors or allusions to others... you name it! If dialogue is thus embellished, it becomes too colorful and lush for the audience to feel it's on the nose :)

Tantz_Aerine at 9:19AM, Aug. 10, 2017

Well the first thing I'd say is that we never write realistic dialogue, but rather a simulation of realistic dialogue- in real life people digress, leave hanging sentences, lose train of thought or speak incorrectly/incoherently. If we do that in comics or novels, the entire thing collapses and the audience disconnects. So by nature we have to write a concise sentence where often there would be a paragraph of round about sentences and pauses and ehhhhs and the like. The point I mean to make is we need to make the dialogue SOUND realistic. In that sense, we should first determine how the personality of each character would produce turns of phrase and dialogue. Some people are inherently aggressive. Some are the exact opposite. Some people have a flair for the dramatic and others are stoic in how they speak. So in order to make the dialogue feel genuine and realistic, you need to sort of 'quantify' these traits and keep in mind to switch the tone according to who is talking.

EssayBee at 8:09AM, Aug. 10, 2017

Another very important part of dialogue, since it's one of the biggest ways of establishing characters and their personalities, is to be sure each character is distinguishable by the way he/she speaks and to tweak dialogue accordingly. With characterization established by speech patterns/general diction, it makes it easier for simple dialogue to reveal moods and unspoken thoughts through what a character says (or doesn't say). If a typically verbose character suddenly gives short, terse responses, readers immediately know something's up.

EssayBee at 8:04AM, Aug. 10, 2017

Very good topic, and one that tons could be written about (actually, I hit a word limit, so I'll have to break this response in two), since dialogue is more important in establishing a character's personality than visual character design. I likewise love when readers read into a character's thinking in reaction to dialogue/situations--one of the reasons no dialogue and just a facial expression (or body language) can be an effective communicator in visual storytelling. Few things as a storyteller are more gratifying than seeing readers understand the unspoken things going on in a scene; it shows you've done a good job in creating believable, living characters and not simply pawns for a story.

KimLuster at 6:24AM, Aug. 10, 2017

@Ozone: Ditto!! ;)

Ozoneocean at 5:02AM, Aug. 10, 2017

Characters saying the name of who they're talking to helps me when I do a feature on a comic XD I can't tell you the trouble I've had scanning through someone's archive looking for the character names! Hahaha!

KimLuster at 4:53AM, Aug. 10, 2017

Killin' these articles, Banesy!! Dialogue is one of the tougher aspects of story creation! As Bravo points out and I've long accepted, dialogue in a story is almost never like real life conversations. Real conversations are like streams of conscious, full of short, incomplete blurbs, lots of grunts, uh-huhs, and non-verbal queues. While creating a story with that kind of dialogue is an interesting challenge, you also have to 'fill in' what a reader would normally pick up in a normal conversation but can't in a story (only one sense (sight) instead of five, minimal non-linguistic sounds (*snort*, *hrrrmmph*)). One thing I've noticed I do in story dialogue is the characters say the name of whoever they're talking to much more than anyone would do in a real conversation - but it just feels right in the story!!

bravo1102 at 2:34AM, Aug. 10, 2017

So dialogue could be seen as distilling down a complex narrative into a handful of words. Keep it short and simple. Unless the character is one who talks too much. Characterization can come before brevity. But then you could always show the long winded character getting cut off in mid sentence just to keep things moving.

bravo1102 at 2:26AM, Aug. 10, 2017

Every advance in the history of mathematics has been about reducing the terms of a complex computation. From simple algebra and geometry to calculus, each is a short hand method for doing what would previously fill whole chalkboards.

Ozoneocean at 1:29AM, Aug. 10, 2017

Interesting explanation of the process! I approach it pretty instinctively... by the seat of my pants. Sometimes I have a character emoting or acting in a different way to what they're saying so that looks like they're hiding something. My dialogue rule is: Minimise things right down so that they don't cover up too much art. I write stuff that moves things along and gets the point of the scene across, but when it comes to putting it on the comic page I simplify it as best as I can. I think of it like a problem in physics where the whole point is to reduce a complex equation don't to its simplest form, and yet it still does the same work, like the classic E=mc squared, which replaces a few blackboards full of equations. I sometimes apply that rule to newsposts and comments on things... I haven't applied it here however :)

bravo1102 at 12:25AM, Aug. 10, 2017

Unless in a classroom or giving a speech people also don't indulge in long-winded exposition. In fact most conversation is NOT in sentences. But you have critics demanding grammar in something that by its very nature is intrinsically ungrammatical. Sometimes you wonder if these types ever had a real face to face conversation or ever bothered to pay attention to one. But things have to be explained and without benefit of narration you're stuck with conversation and expository speechifying. And making that narrative chore into a natural flow of words is good dialogue. When it feels like youre overhearing someone talk as opposed to sitting in a lecture hall, the writer has succeeded. For great examples read The Godstrain. Long pages full of explanation but it never feels like it.

bravo1102 at 12:09AM, Aug. 10, 2017

An important part of therapy is building the life skills to be able to express needs, wants and desires clearly and part of that is expressing your feelings in an "I" statement. But that's therapy. So being conscious of that it might to easier to write about people who aren't that self aware.

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