Writing Dialogue Is Easy

What’s difficult is figuring out what your characters want, why they want it, and what’s preventing them from getting it.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
A
Hey.
B
Hey.
A
I want this one thing.
B
Well, you can’t have it.
A
Why not?
B
Because.
A
Well, that’s not good enough for me.
B
Well, it’s going to have to be, because you can’t have it.
A
Give it to me.
B
No.
A
Yes.
B
No.
A
Here are all the reasons why you should give it to me.
B
And here are all the reasons why I won’t.
A
Fine; I’ll just do something else.
B
It won’t work.
A
I’ll show you.
JOHN
Hey.
JANE
Hey.
JOHN
Can I talk to you for a second?
JANE
Oh, I’m sorry, John, but I’m really busy right now.
JOHN
It’s important.
JANE
(re: what she’s doing)
Okay, well, so is this.
JOHN
Okay, well, how about we schedule a time? I’m available this afternoon. Does that work for you?
JANE
I can’t this afternoon; I have plans.
JOHN
Okay, well, how about this weekend? I’m available Sunday.
JANE
I can’t on Sunday either.
JOHN
Okay, well, how about -
JANE
John, I don’t want to talk to you.
JOHN
Why not?
JANE
Because it’s exhausting; every time we talk, you get mad, and I start crying, and I just don’t want to do it anymore.
JOHN
That’s why we need to talk, so we can get over this thing and move on.
JANE
I’ve already moved on.
JOHN
Well, I haven’t.
JANE
That is not my problem.
JOHN
And I’m not saying it is; it’s my problem. But I need your help to solve it.
JANE
Well, I’m busy right now.
JOHN
Jane -
JANE
No, John; I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore. I have nothing left to say to you. And if you have more to say to me, I don’t want to hear it. Goodbye.
MICHAEL
You want to play Smash?
ANDREW
Not really; I’m not in the mood.
MICHAEL
What? How are you not in the mood for Smash? Who’s not in the mood for Smash?
ANDREW
Me.
MICHAEL
Why not?
ANDREW
I don’t know; I’ve played it a bunch already, and I’m just sick of it. Let’s play something else.
MICHAEL
Okay, what?
ANDREW
I don’t know; you pick.
MICHAEL
I just did.
ANDREW
Something else.
MICHAEL
Fine. Mario Kart.
ANDREW
No.
MICHAEL
Star Fox.
ANDREW
No.
MICHAEL
007.
ANDREW
Meh.
MICHAEL
007?
ANDREW
No.
MICHAEL
Okay, then I give up.
ANDREW
Yeah, me too.
MICHAEL
You didn’t even try.
ANDREW
Why doesn’t Becky like me?
PETER
Okay, let’s take it from the first chorus, bar twenty.
JAMES
Bar twenty?
PETER
Yeah.
JAMES
With the drums?
PETER
Yeah.
JAMES
Don’t you think that’s too heavy for the first chorus?
PETER
No.
JAMES
Okay, well, I do.
PETER
James...
JAMES
What?
PETER
I don’t want to fight with you about every decision I make.
JAMES
I’m not fighting with you; I’m just trying to clarify.
PETER
Yes you are fighting with me.
JAMES
No I’m not.
PETER
Every time I suggest something, you object to it.
JAMES
Yeah, because every time you suggest something, you completely change the song.
PETER
I’m not completely changing the song.
JAMES
You’re adding drums to the first chorus!
PETER
Yeah, because the first chorus is boring! There’s nothing happening in it; it’s just the Rhodes and a pad.
JAMES
Yeah, because it contrasts well with the verse, in which we have bass and percussion, and gives us room to build for the rest of the song.
PETER
Build to what? You’re supposed to build to the chorus, and we’re here now, and there’s nothing happening.
JAMES
Yeah, because we’re not building to the first chorus; we’re building to the end of the song.
PETER
Well, I think it’s boring.
JAMES
It was your idea!
PETER
And now I think it’s boring. So I want to add drums.
JAMES
Okay. Then you can record the song on your own.
PETER
What?
JAMES
I’m not going to fight with you.
PETER
James -
JAMES
No. We obviously have different ideas about how the song should be arranged, so why don’t you just do your version and then I’ll hear it when it’s released.
PETER
That’s not how this works; we’re a band.
JAMES
Are we?
PETER
What the hell is that supposed to mean?
JAMES
Figure it out. I’m done.

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Mitchell Ferrin

I write about writing and editing and also share occasional thoughts on things. mitchellferrin.com