One of my colleagues, an aspiring screen writer, asked me how I ‘do’ dialogue in my writing, and got me thinking. When I write dialogue, I remove the redundant things (Hello, how are you? Nice to meet you. Haven’t seen you in a long time), unless they add to tension, and the speaker doesn’t really mean it.
I try to imagine how a specific person would deliver my dialogue. If it’s a teenager, I imagine my daughter speaking. If it’s a conservative middle-aged Indian woman, I imagine my childhood neighbor Gupta Auntie from Street 20. If I have a straight-talking no-nonsense personality, who may cuss under her breath, I think of my secretary. What and how would that particular person speak? A young junkie is unlikely to greet someone in a sing-song voice with a ‘How do you do.’ Just as Gupta Auntie would probably not say “Yo!” (Unless they are pretending to be someone else, which could add to humor).
People of different age-group find humor in different things. I would put in a self-deprecatory fat-joke for women readers, but middle-grade boys (and some grown-ups) would more likely laugh at fart-jokes.
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Sunanda Chatterjee is a practicing physician in Southern California. When she is not by the microscope making diagnoses, she loves to write fiction.