This is one area of writing that I find myself struggling a lot. I usually divide my chapters into scenes and each scene has a goal(s) that I have to achieve. And I have found that even though I know what the goal of a dialogue between certain characters is, I am not able to convincingly pen it down. I get lost in writing convincing dialogue to reach that goal.
Some of the feedback I have received is:
- The segue from one topic of conversation to another is not fluid.
- The dialogue sounds wooden or stilted or unnatural at certain points.
- If I'm trying to present information (like two characters discussing history or a war in the past), then it sounds like an interrogation.
I am not sure how to improve this or what steps to take. If someone can suggest some good books or videos or any good tips that they use, it would be useful.
I am attaching four excerpts from two of my chapters. I will also include the goals I try to achieve from that dialogue.
To help you you understand the excerpt. The flow is that Adam meets with the Taoi twins and explains them the history of his world. He has a vision there about the death of him and his brother (Brendan) which freaks him out. Adam is now trying to get Brendan (the chosen one) to return back but Brendan does not want to leave.
- To show the Taoi twins share a mental connection (not to state it explicitly yet)
- The twins have kind of a Idiot Savant or Rainman type personality.
“So what?” Taoi shrugged, “Age does not drive skill.”
“Besides, we have put in the effort”, the other twin said. “We have trained in multiple disciplines to qualify.”
“We are good at this”, the other twin nodded as if it was fact. “It is the reason the elves turn to us.”
“If something needs fixing”, Taoi said.
“We fix it”, the other twin said.
“If something needs inventing”, Taoi said.
“We invent it”, the other twin said.
“Basically anything that needs experimenting”
“We experiment with it. You can call us...The…umm...”
“Scientists ?” Adam supplied.
“We don't like that word”, Taoi said, turning to the other twin. “We actually prefer...”
“Experimenters?”, the other Taoi said with an air of sudden inspiration.
“Experimenterist?”, Taoi said just as brightly.
“Experiment artists?” The twins looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Experiment enthusiasts”, they said in unison, heartily agreeing with each other.
“You both are bad at naming things”, Adam observed.
“It is our greatest flaw”, Taoi lamented.
- Show the vastness of the city and the other industries
- Show how the cities function
- Show the people don't really have a choice
- Show the Empire's dependence on the population
The eight cities were quite distinctly visible on the map. “The cities sure are vast”, Taoi said, eyes glued to the map.
“When the cities were unveiled, they were not as vast. Survivors were rounded up and brought in and yet the cities were overwhelmingly empty. Over the course of time, the survivors thrived, in a way, and the cities grew, extending to accommodate the growing population. What you see on the map is not their entire extent though. For some of the cities, depending on the environment around it, a large area outside the walls of the city but inside the dome are dedicated to various industries. There are large farmlands near a few, mines near some.”
“That is good, right?” Taoi asked tentatively.
The other twin nodded. “People have the means to earn their own livelihood.”
“Not exactly.” Adam shook his head. “Everything belongs to the Empire, whatever the results of the labour of the residents. It is one of the conditions of being allowed to live in the cities. The Empire claims everything you create. In return for the contribution‟, every resident gets access to food, clothing and medicines, and protection from the dangers outside.”
“And what if someone is not able to contribute?”
“Everyone contributes. One way or another.”
“Ominous”, Taoi commented.
“What do you mean?”, the other twin asked.
“Well, if you are able and willing, you will be given a choice to enrol in the army or find work in the fields or in the mines or any other industry. But if you are not able or unwilling, then the Empire will make the choice for you and there is a single option. You will be mutated into Clamors, genetically modified creatures which serve as the Empire's first line of defence.”
“That's horrible”, Taoi said.
“The Empire does not value human life”, Adam shrugged. “To them, the humans are just mulch they feed into the machinery to keep it running.”
“If the Empire does not care about the people, then why does it bother with them?” Taoi asked. “Why build cities to accommodate the populace?”
“Why set up the dome to safeguard them? Why not let everyone else die?”
“There is a reason for that”, Adam said. “The same one which caused the wars.”
“Energy?” Taoi's brow furrowed in thought. “Of course, the cities, the dome, they all would require a large amount of energy to sustain them.”
"And they need the humans to mine them", Adam agreed.
- To show Adam is concerned about the whole thing but Brendan is not.
- The oath which Brendan took in an earlier chapter was not really his idea.
"You saw those orcs we fought-"
"-and defeated. Single-handedly, if I might add."
"But there will be more of them."
"Some hundred orcs have escaped in all. There are more elves than that."
Adam opened his mouth to counter but Brendan cut him off again. "You know you need to loosen up a little. Let go of the worries."
"I would, if you would not keep making hasty decisions."
Brendan stared for a moment before he comprehended Adam's words. "The oath ? Wasn't it quite something?" he said proudly. "I have lucrano to thank for that.
- To highlight Adam's concern with staying and wanting Brendan to return back
- Brendan still is not concerned about the whole thing
- What happened in the council
- Adam became the leader (but he does not know it) and Brendan is angry at him but can not outright say it. (That is a reveal for later)
"I am not giving all this up just because you had a bad dream", Brendan said.
"It was not a dream. It was a vision", Adam repeated."And don't you want to return back to Medullia?" he asked.
The words brought a bitter taste to Brendan's mouth. "There is nothing for me there."
"Why do you say that?"
Brendan did not answer.
"It's because of the council, isn't it ?"
Brendan did not say anything.
"They rejected your claim again?"
Brendan shook his head. "They reached a decision", he said.
"And it's not you", Adam was genuinely surprised.
Anger burned in Brendan's eyes as he looked at Adam. "The blind bats on the council decided that I, the prince, was not fit to be the leader yet.They felt that I have not been able to prove my abilities. They...they...would rather-" Brendan stopped suddenly and breathed deeply. "You know what, it does not matter."
"I am sure we can make them see reason-"
Brendan interrupted. "I do not care anymore. The council can select whoever they want", he spat. "This is where I belong. It is my destiny." Adam wanted to make him see reason but Brendan raised his blade. "I am the salvation of the elves and this is the weapon with which I shall achieve my destiny", he declared.