Writing speech can leave you at a lost for words. It can be tricky stuff. First, you have all that problem of speech layout to get pass and that’s before your characters even open their mouths. Then, what should they say? And when should they say it? Tricky stuff.
So, here’s my first speech tip: Don’t get too bogged down in the layout and words instead of said (I know some teachers are obsessed with words instead of said and even do WHOLE lessons on it! But it’s not important. Many writers just use said). The most important thing is what your character is saying.
Having said that, it does help your reader if they can tell who is speaking and when. To help you get the layout right, then you could use my TEN RULES FOR SPEECH LAYOUT below. Before anyone says it (usually a writer or teacher), I know all speech is not set out like this. These rules are just a starting point so you can get going. You can play around with the structure later when you think you’ve got it. Let’s keep it simple at first. No space travel before we’ve invented the wheel.
Now the layout is sorted, let’s concentrate on the important fun part of what to say. Here’s when my second speech tip: Make sure your character has something important to say. Whatever you do, don’t just have them waffling away without what they are talking about moving the story on. Here’s an example of what not to do:
“Hello, Pete. What are you doing?” said John.
“I’m going to the park,” said Pete.
“Why are you going to the park?” asked John.
“To play football, ” said Pete.
“I might go too,” said John…..
Your reader is now gnawing in anger on the book, or worse has fallen asleep and is drooling, or even worse worse is an adult who has fallen asleep and is drooling all over the page and nobody wants to see that. Better to have no speech at all than speech like this. Instead, when your character talks, make it exciting and punchy but most of all get to the point. Maybe something like this:
“Hey, John, it’s Pete. I’m at the park. You got to come down and see this?”
“What?” asked John.
“I can’t tell you on the phone. You just wouldn’t believe me. Just get down here,” said Pete then the phone went dead.
The final and most important speech writing tip: Read your speech aloud. I know, this may sound a bit bonkers and a very embarrassing thing to do but it works. It makes your dialogue sound right. 100% guaranteed. If you don’t, there will be drooling!
So, here are those three tips again to get your characters talking:
Don’t get too bogged down in the layout and words instead of said
Make sure your character has something important to say
Read your speech aloud.