Conversation in fiction is something we writers have to handle differently in several ways than the fiction text itself.
Grammar in conversation is looser and should fit the character. Ending sentences with a preposition, for example, is fine in conversation. In text, however, such faux pas should be avoided.
“So this fellow is someone important, then,” Gerard mused. “Someone Hardin needs to tread cautiously with. Probably someone you studied under…” (from an unpublished novel by an unknown author)
If the highlighted portion above were text instead of part of conversation, it would be written like this:
This is someone with whom Hardin needs to tread cautiously.
Of course, this is a general rule. The overall tone of your novel, short story, etc., will determine how precise you want to be. And sometimes being grammatically correct can be quite awkward.
Another instance where conversation differs from your fiction text is sentences. People rarely speak in full sentences. We use phrases and sometimes a word or two. See the above example.
We also use contractions a lot, unless we speak English as a second language (most people who learn English often say “you are” instead of “you’re”). I found that reading through my characters’ conversation out loud helps me get the feel of it to see if it flows and sounds natural. I add in contractions wherever practical.
Text can, of course, contain sentence fragments, but this is usually done for emphasis or to set a certain tone.
Of course, dialect in conversation can be a key part of your storytelling. A great example is Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
“Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better.”
Text, however, should not as a general rule contain dialect elements. If the above was not part of conversational text, it would be written like this:
Right is right, and wrong is wrong. People have no business doing wrong when they have full knowledge of right.
Of course, that would hardly fit with the tone of the novel.
Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start writing!
Please check out my works in progress (WIPs). And thanks for reading.
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