character interaction

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character interaction

Hi I really struggle with character interaction like when characters speak to each other I just seem to get stuck and cant get conversation between characters flowing.

Can anyone give me any tips or exercises to practice that can help me.

Ive heard people say watch everyday life people speaking but that doesnt help me much.


Hi thornwood, dialogue is tricky and something I have to work so hard on to achieve authenticity.At uni, we have been encouraged to record random interactions with people. It helped me identify how much conversation is full of 'erms and buts and repetition, lots of which shouldn't make it to the page. It reduces the contrived effect, I found. What it did highlight is how real conversation goes off course often and writing needs to reflect that reality sometimes. I recorded on my phone, wrote up the transcript then cut the fillers out. The other thing you might try is to write an interaction between two people where one is cutting the other's hair and you only have a mirror, a pair of scissors and one person is keeping a secret from the other.


It's tricky to make it flow naturally. I try to cut out all the "he said" or "said Sheila" sort of thing. It tends to stop the rhythm of the conversation. For example if you have two friends meeting ( Bob and Terry), it's easy to write... Bob walked into the pub and saw Terry sitting alone.

"Hiya " said Bob. "You okay?"

Terry replied. "Yes fine thanks."

You could write it. Bob walked into the pub and saw Terry sitting alone. He looked over.

"Hiya.You okay"

Terry smiled.

"Yes fine thanks."

Might sound a bit obvious but it flows much better. I always try to get rid of as many "he saids" as possible and look for alternatives. Quite often you dont need them at all. Just have a seperate line for each piece of dialogue. The reader will work it out.



Thanks for taking the time to respond. Your answers were exactly what I was looking for. Gives me food for thought.


Stephen d

Hi Steve. I've tried experimenting with only dialogue. No "he or she or it said" at all. If you set up the context it can feel quite liberating. Always think about the context as you're writing the lines to give whatever subliminal signposts you can to the reader. You might find it needs the odd ...said here and there. Also short clips of narrative that a line from the character can project from. I just try to get them living, doing, speaking in my head. Sometimes it works. Good luck.

Parson Thru

Dialogue is 'Speak so I see' kind of tricky. You should (in theory) be able to remove all markers and the readers should know who is speaking, in the same way we know who is speaking on the phone, when someone says, 'it's me'. Think about that. how people talk on the phone. All written dialogue is couterfeit, just try and hide the watermark. 


watch tv shows

go to starbucks or a bookstores or a festival and

 sort of listen to how differant people talk

read other books or essays collection and look at how the interviewers interact while you are writing and go from there.


I like using first person narration, as you're already 'in' one of the characters, so in a two-way dialogue you only have to dip into one other character. It feels less like being an actor in a quick-change Patrick Barlow comedy.


Try and limit the number of characters in a scene, that way you avoid a tedious list of 'Mike said', 'said Jeff', 'this was Cromwell', etc, or worse, a string of sentences with no indication of who's talking.


Read widely, experiment with different types of story - pure dialogue, no dialogue, can't get a word in edgeways dialogue. In my early writing I had actors in mind to 'play' the characters, which helped, because mentally you'd just switch from picturing Ralph Richardson to picturing Tim Preece, which is easier than thinking 'now what would Alun say in response to that?', then having to mentally leap back and go 'now what would jed say in response to what Alun's just said?' 


Mainly though, just keep writing. It gets easier.