I recently wrote my first fanfic (for those of you scratching your head at the term, it refers to fan Fiction- aka a story created using characters and settings from TV shows, movies, or even other author’s work. These are just for fun ;)). I did it as a favor/dare for a fanfic loving friend of mine.
One of the reasons that I have never been drawn to fanfic is I don’t like the restrictions of other people’s characters. But, I did find a nice benefit of doing this exercise.
TV characters have great voices.
Young writers are often told to go out and listen to conversations to find out how people speak. This is well and good except for one thing—we don’t write how people speak. We write what sounds like how people speak. Big difference. If you write like people really speak, you’ll bore the heck out of your readers.
But TV characters (and movie characters) speak like what sounds like how people speak. All the extra little stuff is gone. Plus, because a trained actor is reading those lines, differences in speakers are far easier to spot. Pauses, turns of phrase, little nuances that will make it easy for the reader to know who is speaking—even without tags.
Listen to what they say, as well as how they say it. “That sucked.” is saying the same idea as “Well, that didn’t go right.” But these two speakers are worlds apart.
So try this experiment next time you’re watching TV. Turn away from the set and just listen. Pay attention to tones, pitches, pauses, tics, anything that makes that character unique. Especially good are shows where characters (who you know) are “not themselves”. This could be literally (body swapping) or a matter of something being seriously wrong with them at that moment. How do their voices and word choices change?
You’ll be strengthening your own dialogue (and have an excuse to listen to TV ;)).