Crafting Conversations: Writing Your Novel’s Dialogue In Script Form

So, I was writing one of the dialogue scenes between two of my characters, Áine and Devlin, and wanted to make sure that they kept their voices and that everything felt natural. One of the ways that I do this is by stripping away all the extra stuff around the dialogue (except for a few necessary action pieces) to make sure that they sound unique and natural. Then I’ll speak the dialogue out. If you have a friend or a significant other around, see if you can coerce them into acting the dialogue out with you. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about when I say ‘strip away all the extra stuff’. I’ll start with the original scene, and then show you the script form:

Original Prose:

“So…,” he said, still looking through the spyglass. “…are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”

He took a step back, tilting his head to the side to look at her with a raised eyebrow. The two siblings could never keep secrets from the other, so it was no surprise that he’d noticed something was bothering her. Áine glanced back towards the manor.

“You know that historia?” she asked, looking back at her brother.

“The one you fell asleep reading?”

She nodded.

“Well…it’s the strangest thing…but…,” she started, trying to figure out the best way of stating this without sounding absolutely crazy or making it seem like too big of a deal. After all, she wasn’t even sure if it was a big deal. “…I don’t remember reading it.”

“What do you mean you don’t remember reading it?” Her brother stared at her with that mild look of confusion he sometimes gets; usually when reading a book that was a little too verbose. She let out a sigh, shaking her head.

“I mean I’ve been trying to, but I can’t remember. It’s blank. I remember opening the book to read it, and then next thing…next thing I know…I’m waking up,” she dropped down to a whisper at the end, eyes darting around as if at any moment some gardener might jump out of the bushes and yell ‘Aha! Gotcha!’. Her brother followed her gaze for a moment, before hurriedly shaking his head and pinching between his eyes.

“Wait for just a moment…,” he started, before raising a finger and saying, “…you’re telling me that you – you – don’t remember a book. None of it?”

“Not a word,” she said. Now that she was seeing her brother’s reaction, the strangeness was starting to feel more real. She wasn’t the only one who found this odd. Because the truth of the matter was, out of all the books she’d read in her sixteen years of life; out of every historia, every novel…she remembered every word. Every single word. Until now.

“Have you tried your whole Mind Library thing?” he asked, whispering the last part. Áine shook her head.

“No, I haven’t had time. But still, even without that I should remember the text. I should remember the words, Devlin. Something isn’t right and…,” he placed his hands on her shoulders.

“Easy. Look, check your library. I’ll keep an eye out. Dad should be a little while. I’d say you have…,” he pulled out a little brass pocketwatch from inside his vest. “…at least another half hour,”

Áine nodded, taking a deep breath. She sat down at one of the stone benches on the sky-ledge, resting her hands on her skirt and breathing in through her nose. Half an hour. That was plenty of time to see if the book was there. She closed her eyes, letting the breath out through her mouth. In through her nose, out through her mouth.

“Oh…and ‘Lin…,” she said, opening up a single eye to look at her brother. “…stop stealing people’s pocketwatches.”

The last thing she saw before closing her eye was her brother’s mischievous grin. Then she returned to her breathing and let the world slip away from her…

Script Form:

Devlin: So…are you going to tell me what’s wrong?

Áine: You know that historia?

Devlin: The one you fell asleep reading?

Áine: Well…it’s the strangest thing…but…I don’t remember reading it.

Devlin: What do you mean you don’t remember reading it?

Áine: I mean I’ve been trying to, but I can’t remember. It’s blank. I remember opening the book to read it, and then next thing…next thing I know…I’m waking up.

Devlin: Wait for just a moment…you’re telling me that you –you– don’t remember a book. None of it?

Áine: Not a word.

Devlin: Have you tried your whole mind-dream-library-thing?

Áine: I haven’t had time. But still, even without that, I should remember the text. I should remember the words, ‘Lin, and I don’t and something just isn’t right and–

Devlin: Easy. Look, check your Library. I’ll keep an eye out. Dad should be a while. I’d say you have… *pulls out a pocketwatch* …at least half an hour.

Áine: *sits down and closes eyes* Oh…and ‘Lin… *opens one eye to look at her brother* …stop stealing people’s pocketwatches.

Can you spot the changes that were made after I wrote the scene in script form? Why do you think I made those changes and how do you think that improves the scene, if at all?  Let me know in the comments. Do you ever write your dialogue in script-form? How do you go about ensuring realistic dialogue for your stories?

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3 thoughts on “Crafting Conversations: Writing Your Novel’s Dialogue In Script Form

  1. I’ve never actually tried writing dialogue from a novel this way, though I did try to write a script once. It didn’t end particularly well. My imagination seems to be far more interested in creating novels.

    I do think the dialogue is a little bit stronger in the script version, but I think it’s more to the point to say the first version might have a little bit too much going on. So an interesting way to edit would be to turn the dialogue into script format, then pick and choose details from the original version to add.

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    • Exactly. It forces you to look at what was necessary and what wasn’t. It’s too easy to write scenes and have all this unnecessary fidgeting going on between the characters. By stripping it all away, you can look at what was interrupting the dialogue flow and then take it all out. In my revised version, much of the filler is now gone.

      And yeah, script-writing itself is an entirely different beast. I’m much more interested in novels, as well. But as a tool to analyze dialogue scenes, it’s invaluable. To me, that is. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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