So, I’m noticing as I’m writing the second draft of my book that my dialogue is coming off… kind of childish? I definitely don’t want it to because the characters in the book are all adults and the themes in the book are definitely for more mature audiences. I feel like this clash comes off as creepy when the characters sound like kids and they are dealing with things like war and death and et cetera. So I’m wondering how I can fix this issue.
I know I need to read more, and that will help me with developing my dialogue writing skills, but I feel like it’s not just the dialogue but also the writing around scenes that include dialogue, if that makes sense? I’m also hoping that you lovely people will have some quick tips for improving dialogue for me in the meantime while I start reading more to help out with that. I think my language might be too straightforward and simple and that might be contributing to it, but I feel like that’s how I speak, so it’s hard to change that tone to something else that passes for the characters and their voices better.
I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but if I could get some help from anyone else that might understand, I’d really appreciate it.
TLDR; My dialogue sounds childish and I need help making it sound more in line with an adult themed book.
That is a vague term. Do you need help making your dialogue sound more natural or fit the characterization of your characters more, or something else?
Yeah, what do you mean by childish? Are the characters excitable and emo, speaking in exclamation points? If so, making them more calm and serious might make them sound more mature. Also eliminating any slang or odd phrasing. Maybe posting an excerpt would help? ¯\_(ﭢ)_/¯
It’s difficult to explain. I suppose another way to put it would be that it’s a bit too on the nose? Too blunt. Too much telling and not enough showing, even though it’s dialogue. It almost sounds cliche? I don’t know how to describe it. Maybe I’m just too close to the project and am seeing issues that aren’t there? I suppose showing an excerpt might help.
“Are you sure it would be appropriate to call you by your first name?” Alma asked tentatively.
Mrs. Parish laughed and waved a dismissive hand through the air. “Oh, Alma, honey, of course, I’m sure. I prefer it. Please, call me Aelita.”
Alma still seemed uncomfortable by the idea but nodded his head to show he understood. Mrs. Parish smiled at him before carrying on. She leaned forward in her seat and rested her chin against one of her hands.
“So, tell me about yourself, Alma. I hear you aren’t exactly like other A.I. You’ve got a personality blooming behind those pretty eyes of yours, don’t you?”
Her language threw Alma off. She was being incredibly relaxed, all sense of professionalism gone. The contrast between her asking him about himself and the way she addressed him like they had been friends for years was confusing Alma.
“What would you like to know?” he asked, speaking slowly and tilting his head to the side.
“Well, for one, Dr. Chen told me you have some anxiety. Do you want to tell me about that? What do you think might be causing it?”
Alma frowned at her, unsure of what to say. “I am not supposed to have emotions. I am only designed to simulate them when appropriate, but not to let them control me. I do not know how to control my emotions. I do not even know why I have them, or how it is possible.”
Mrs. Parish nodded her head with a sympathetic frown. “Emotions can be hard,” she said. “Even humans have a hard time controlling our emotions. Did you know that?”
I honestly don’t see anything wrong with the dialogue. And since she’s talking to an A.I. I think the dialogue prob should sound like it does in this example because it’s very blunt like I feel a machine would be. I hope that makes sense.
Yeah, like I said, I might just be too close to the project and over thinking things. I just wanted to make sure other people didn’t feel like it was off too.
Also depends on the audience you’re going for.
In this case the cringe is you, not the writing.
Let me rephrase that: We all have this little inner demon that sees far more flaws in our weak spots than is actually there.
I’m 42. I am extremely mature in a lot of cases, to the point of being pedantic and finding tons of childish things a trial, but that’s NOT to say “the childish is magically gone”.
- Because of a deep southern heritage, I have an extreme tendency towards “color analyst” writing, that is, bringing flavor that is strange, but readable. So, I’ll be talking seriously, technical jargon and all that, and suddenly I’ll stop and say, “Hold on, my son is having a magic meltdown.”
What I mean is that he’s screaming at the top of his lungs, often breaking things in a fit of rage.
- I also still find the word poo funny. Which is good, since my kids are at the scatological age and we sing songs where we insert the word poo into it, to crack each other up. I don’t find one kid teasing the other into crying on a long car trip fun. The word poo will do that, if applied right, so I’ve got to adult at times I’d normally laugh.
There’s countless things like this. But maturity isn’t in the words chosen, it’s in the concept applied.
There’s this old farmer we grew up around in the midwest. Dad didn’t think he had deep thoughts, for the longest time, until he turned to him and said, “I’d like to go faster than light, once, to watch myself leave.”
Just out of nowhere, when his whole world was cows and horses.
So if you’re worried about adult language, just make sure the concepts are where they are supposed to be at, and the words chosen won’t matter at all.