If you want to tell a story that focuses on plot and character, such as love story, action adventure, or murder mystery, and your audience come to you for those things, a detour to use a lot of flowery language and poetic description will get in the way. Your audience will stop reading because they’ve forgotten the point of the story and got bored.
When you’re writing dialogue in your story, try and make sure it reads like people actually speak, rather than reading like it was written. Dialogue that reads like it’s artificial will make your characters feel artificial, and they’ll be harder to connect with on a human level. However, writing natural dialogue in a story, and writing natural dialogue to emulate real life, are different art forms.
If you’re writing a book or script where there is risk or peril, and you want your audience to believe in it and feel tense during scenes with fights or danger, you need to be willing to kill your main characters. But killing them needs to be done in a way that actually causes the sense of tension you need your audience to feel.
In most of these pieces of writing advice, I reference the conflict, because there is no story without conflict. So what actually is conflict?
I’m going to be writing about the dialogue style of the writer Aaron Sorkin. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, he’s an American writer known for screenwriting TV shows such as The West Wing and The Newsroom, and films such as The Social Network and A Few Good Men. He also wrote stage adaptations such as To Kill A Mockingbird and A Few Good Men, which went to Broadway. Aaron Sorkin is an exceptional writer in all ways, and worth studying in general, but today I’m going to be focusing on the way he writes dialogue.
Causing your audience to have a strong emotional connection to your story, even to the point of being moved to tears, is how you make a story stick with them well after they’ve finished your book. Nobody remembers the story that they had no feelings about, it’s the stories that impacted us on an emotional level that we hold in our hearts. But how do you do it?
A coincidence in a story is an event that happens that has no foreshadowing and no intent, it wasn’t something the character looked for or is a consequence of previous action, it just happens to them and impacts them and they react to it. Coincidences can trigger an interesting story, or progress an existing story, but they have to be handled with care. Having too many coincidences in your story can make it weak, and it shows a lack of planning and intent. I’ll be writing about why coincidences are a problem, and how to avoid writing them.
If you’re a new writer, it’s quite easy to fall into the trap of making all your characters be different versions of yourself. They might look different and have different goals, but their personalities blur into one another and their speech patterns are identical, so it ends up reading like you’re having conversations with yourself.
If you are writing a scary story, or a thriller or a mystery, suspense is one of the key things you need to make your story appealing to your audience. It will keep them excited and intrigued so they will want to stay with you and keep watching or reading to the end.
If you are writing in the fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, or sci-fi genres, you’re going to be writing scenarios for your characters that are, technically, unbelievable. In reality, people don’t believe that the White House is going to be blown up by aliens or that witches and wizards are being trained in magic in a big school, yet we are able to believe it in the story because of how it’s written.