Do you take requests?
-Nope, sorry. Only on the rare occasion that I stream.
How long does it take to make your comic?
-I make on average 3 pages at once, and that takes me a week.
Can I get advice on a story/comic idea I have?
-I am always happy to give people opinions! I don't claim to have any 'qualifications' but if you just want some feedback, I love to help people. Send me a note.
Will you make a sequel to Best of Bad Decisions?
Do you take commissions?
-I do when people ask for it but I don't have like, an official price guide or anything. Shoot me a note.
Can I use your comic art for an icon, stamp, parody meme, etc?
-As long as you provide a link back, let me know it's been used, are not claiming ownership, or using the art for characters in roleplays/stories/etc, I am not bothered by this. You may not, however, repost pages or use my art for commercial gain, including online currency.
I have an idea for a comic; will you draw it for me?
-Absolutely not unless you plan to pay me = D
|Hello, I am Songdog. I create silly webcomics and occasionally make people angry. I also use the word shenanigans as both a noun and verb. Would you like some tea? :|
I got stuck on a boat for four hours. This is what I thought about because I'm a nerd. I wanted to write another thought piece as it had been a good long while, and thought about the question I get asked most, which is about dialog. Dialog is probably one of the harder things there is, up there with pacing, so I tried to organize my thoughts into parts. The hard thing with dialog is, there’s no one way to do it, but it’s easy to tell when it’s done wrong. There’s a lot to talk about, and I feel a lot of what gets talked about is clichés, avoiding dialog walls, what ‘bad dialog’ looks like, and so forth. I wanted to instead focus on the importance in differentiation in dialog and try to make it as applicable as possible. It’s kind of an overview but I felt if I kept going, I’d just be rattling off examples the entire time. I feel like I could write an entire thought piece for each of the categories, but it’s Saint Patrick’s Day and this cider isn’t going to consume itself
Dialog: Variation and Function (a quick thought piece)
The Functions of Dialog
Dialog serves several functions. It can deliver information to us (foremost), it can inform of a character’s personality, their current emotional state, as well as how they feel towards the other character they’re talking to. I think it’s important to realize all of these functions when writing your dialog, as I believe a common problem people have is writing all dialog the same and primarily as a means to deliver information. But there’s a lot more nuance to it.
Everyone probably understands the importance of dialog as a means of informing the audience, but I think the best way to show how it reveals information about the character is to give an example. Imagine Character A is talking to Character B, and I want the information delivered to be telling them that Character C is late. Here are the ways I can do this.
-“They’re late…” (short, choppy, to the point; maybe a sense of dread or maybe we want to withhold how the character is feeling from the audience.)
-“I can’t believe they’re an hour late!” (exasperated, annoyed; maybe the person speaking is easily irritated or it could be hinting that they’re not very tolerant of Character C)
-“They’ve never been this late before….Maybe something went wrong?” (nervousness, fear; this can either tell us that the character delivering this line is a worrier or that maybe foreshadowing something unusual has happened to Character C)
An example of the same line, but purely to exposit information.
“They’re an hour late on the delivery. They were supposed to be here at 4 PM, and those goods are very expensive!”
Think about your character, who they are talking to, and how they feel about the situation. If someone is in a really good mood because they just got a promotion, and found out their car was being towed, how might their reaction be different than if that same person had been fired from their job instead?
Variation in Dialog
Every person, just like every character, has a different way of talking. Some will use regional terms, or use certain phrases, or words; some may talk formally and some may not know how to turn off their filter for cursing even around children. Some people might say something is “swell” or “awesome” and another might say “hot damn!” or “hell yeah!” When Character A delivers a line, it should be different than how Character B delivers a line.
Here’s an example of various characters all reacting to news that they missed the deadline for their project.
-Shit! Are you kidding me?
-Oh…I could have sworn it was tomorrow. Are you, sure?
-That can’t be right! I know for a fact it was tomorrow!
-Oh well. Can’t say I didn’t try.
-...How am I going to fix this? I needed this to go through…
-Goddamnit! I was up all night on this!
Think about what kind of personality your character has. Are they immature and don’t take responsibility for their actions? Are they likely to get angry at the person with the bad news, or angry at themselves?
Quick Tips and Takeaways
-Know your character first. If your character doesn’t have a very strong and well defined personality, your dialog will reflect by being bland.
-Make sure your dialog isn’t there just to deliver plot information; it needs to be filtered through your character’s own voice.
- Don’t write characters smarter than yourself. There’s more to making a smart character than using big words. You’ll need to use varied sentence structure for it to sound natural.
-Decide ahead of time what you want the dialog to accomplish. Why is that dialog there, and what is it informing us of? If it’s not really doing anything for the story, you can probably scrap it. Remember, dialog can inform us of more than just the plot.
-Watch different movies and TV shows to compare how the characters talk.
-Normal people don’t always talk in perfect grammar, or even in complete sentences.
-Avoid misspelling words to try to fake an accent (“eye-dialect”) as this can often be confusing for the reader and take them out of the story. Instead, think of how people from that area might talk as far as sentence structure, grammar, and any colloquialisms they might. Maybe they use certain words (soda vs pop) or use certain idioms to get their ideas across.
-Read the dialog aloud to yourself; does it sound natural or weird?
-Listen to conversations that people have at school, work, or on the street. What do you notice about their speech patterns? If you can, transcribe their conversation and read it back.
Applicable Techniques for Struggling Writers
-If you can, write your dialog and finish your chapter/comic page, let it sit for a few weeks, and come back to it. Read it again; does it hold up as well as you remember?
-Stuck figuring out how to make a character talk? Imagine they have the voice of a character from a movie or book. You don’t have to announce “Hey this character should be read in the voice of _____” or model their actual speech patterns after them, but sometimes it can help if you’re stuck to have something you can verbally replay in your head.
-Think of what your character’s favorite or most used words might be, and keep this in mind as you write.
-If you’re having trouble writing a certain character’s dialog who’s already appeared before in your story, go back and re-read the scenes with them. Sometimes it can help you re-establish their voice.
-Imagine two characters from your story (preferably, two who have not interacted) and imagine them having a conversation. What would they talk about? How would it play out? Now imagine that same conversation, but switch out a character; how has the conversation changed?
There is no one strategy or technique that works for everyone. You may see a strategy and say “no, this is a bad idea and it doesn’t work”, and that’s okay. It’s important that you are honest with what does and doesn’t work for you, especially if what you’re currently doing isn’t working. Experiment; the worst that can happen is it doesn’t work and you go back to how things were. You can always ask others for honest feedback; a second eye is great to have. However, it helps if you ask them specific questions to focus on, instead of handing them the raw dialog. People will give you specific feedback if you have specific questions. Here are some questions you can ask.
-Does the dialog sound consistent for each character?
-Does each character have a defined voice?
-What emotion is getting through with each line?
-Does this sound natural?
-Does this conversation flow make sense?
-Is it too wordy?
-Is it too unclear?