Say What?

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Slippery Tip #6: Use Dialogue Effectively

Dialogue is when the people in your story talk. It’s one of the most dynamic and engaging ways to tell your story, but it’s often underused in porn. Dialogue can be very effective for revealing character, for filling in background, for moving the plotforward, and for rescuing your story from being a series of big blocks of dense text on the page. It’s a very handy storytelling tool. The difficult part is making it sound natural.

Accomplishing this is more of an art than a science. Paradoxically, the quickest way to make your characters sound NOT normal is to try to mimic the way people actually talk. Real people are all over the place and if you wrote down what they said word for word they would sound like blithering idiots. Story dialogue is a stylized version of speech that rarely exists in the real world, but feels like it does.

One of the most common problems I see is failing to use contractions. We almost always use I’ll, you’re, and they’d rather than I will, you are, and they would. There are certain idiomatic phrases where it sounds awkward to use contractions, but otherwise it comes across as formal and stilted. This is why robots and alien often don’t use contractions – it makes them sound weirdly different when they talk.

It’s sometimes good to give certain characters verbal “tags,” but be careful not to overdo them. Don’t have Judy start every line with “So” or “Well.” Use these sparingly and readers will pick up on it. Same goes for accents. Don’t try to faithfully represent a character’s accent phonetically (“I pahked my cah in Havahd Yahd”). This is difficult to read and gets annoying. Again, just a few little hints of an accent here and there will do the trick nicely.

Keep in mind that dialogue is usually a rapid back and forth exchange. People rarely make long speeches when they’re having a conversation with someone. Even if they do, it’s usually a good idea for the other character to inject a comment just to break things up. Each line should move things forward. If you can remove the line and it doesn’t “break” the forward momentum of the scene, then you probably don’t need it. This is often the case with “chit chat.” Yes, it may be realistic, but for the purposes of a story it must be distilled down to its minimal essence.

Another important aspect of dialogue to consider is the idea of subtext. People are often indirect about what they say: there are the words, and then there’s what’s behind the words. “Sorry I’m late, honey,” Jack said. Jill forced a smile. “Not to worry, dear. As a matter of fact, the other wives have become quite jealous of all the free time your late nights at work give me.” Here we see that instead of being angry and lashing out, Jill is saying the opposite of what she feels in a sweet, passive aggressive way, and she is planting seeds of doubt in her husband’s mind. What’s she doing with all that “free” time? Meeting strangers online for role play fantasies? Sucking the neighbor’s cock? Interracial, latex fetish, bukakke gang bangs? The best dialogue forces the reader to pay attention in order to interpret what’s really being said.

Beyond the challenge of creating compelling dialogue, there is also the grammatical mechanics of how to present it on the page. There are just a few simple rules, but it’s probably the area that most new writers have the most difficulty with. I’ll cover some of the biggest technical aspects of dialogue in my next installment.

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3 thoughts on “Say What?

  1. Oh mah GAWD, YES!

    Dialog really is one of the most important parts of erotic fiction and well as one of the most difficult to master.

    A clunky sentence which reads; “My turgid manhood stood like rod of pure adamantium in anticipation of her succulent tongue” is, indeed pretty eye-rollingly purple. But it’s survivable. As long as the whole story doesn’t read that way, the reader can move past it.

    However, if the dialog makes the reader cringe, you’re in real trouble. A story can be pretty hard to bear if the reader doesn’t believe the motivations of the characters or what they say about themselves or their intentions. Audiences have pretty well-developed ears for dialog; which, either, rings true, or feels fake or forced.

    There is a reason many screen and scriptwriters are so frequently praised for their ability to write dialog above all else.

    So, how to do it? Listen to people talk and practice as much as possible.

  2. I really enjoy these little segments about good writing. Thinking back to my high school days, if I had a sexy teacher like you who encouraged writing good porn stories with our sexy naked coeds helping, (for strict inspiration of course), then I’m pretty sure we would have put Shakespeare in the dust.

    I’m going to go polish my apple for your class tomorrow, thanks Miss Rachel!

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