Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dialogue: Keeping it Real

Dialogue can be tricky, especially if your protagonist is 16 years old. And lived 500 years ago.

It's hard enough writing realistic dialogue for today's teenagers, especially with all the likes, I means, OMGs, and BFFs without going too Valley Girl. Frankly, I think teenagers today speak like an on-going text message, completely devoid of punctuation or noticeable breathing. But that's what makes it so fun! And weren't we just as bad when we were sixteen?

But teenagers from 500 years ago? That's another story. Literally.

So, in my head, I'm trying to hear Aiyana's voice. She's the main character in my current WIP. She's Native American and strong, opinionated, stubborn, and a bit of a tomboy. But, being from the 1500's, would she speak without contractions? Would her speech sound really formal? Would there be any slang? Should there be?

After giving it a lot of thought, I decided that teenagers are teenagers, regardless of the time period. They're going to be impatient and rebellious; they're going to have some of the same concerns, dreams, angst, and expectations that any teenager would have. So, I'm trying to make the dialogue between Aiyana and the other teenagers in her village sound as normal as possible, given some of the challenges they faced during that time period.

My point? When you're writing dialogue for a YA that takes place TODAY, sometimes all you have to do is hang out at coffee shops and listen to teenagers interact to get a feel for their speech. But, when you're writing a historical YA? You might have to dig a little deeper.

What are your challenges with dialogue? How do you keep it real?

7 comments:

Mark said...

Coffee shops and malls. Good places to listen to "teenager-speak."

Laura said...

Dialogue for me is the hardest part. I've got to really feel the character (in my head) before I can write anything that makes sense.

Sarah said...

It's easier in first person, especially for young adult.

Anonymous said...

I can't write YA. Wish I could.

Bookworm said...

If I see the characters in my head, dialogue comes easy. But I have to love my story. Love my characters.

Ben said...

Try skate parks. That's another good place to listen to teens and pre-teens. Sometimes I'll go with my young son. It's like they speak in code.

Lisa said...

I wish dialogue was the least of my problems. Sigh...