Let’s Talk Dialogue – Part 5 – How Social Media Has Changed Dialogue

Let’s Talk Dialogue – Part 5 – How Social Media Has Changed Dialogue


The only person I call every day is my mother – she doesn’t know how to SMS so this is the only way we stay in touch.

The truth is that no one uses the telephone anymore. Even people with smartphones prefer you to send instant messaging or email. When did this sea change happen? When did technology reshape the way we communicate? I don’t know – maybe I forgot to get the SMS notification or download the App.

A whole new world – on your character’s phone

As writers, we need to use these new ways of communicating – or dialogue if you want – to reflect the modern lives of our characters in contemporary fiction.

In previous blogs, I’ve said that dialogue is the words spoken out loud by a character. That’s still true. But social media and other influences have created another structure for dialogue – words that aren’t spoken aloud, but typed out on a phone or a laptop.
So, an exchange between two characters on Facebook, WhatsApp or even SMS could look like this:

Kyle
WUU2? Wanna go to Jake’s party 2nite?!
Lauren
What time? Need 2 b home by 10 or mom will freak.
Kyle
Nah, 9 the latest. So?

Plzzz?!

Remember you can put the exchange in a different font, use speech bubbles or make it look like a screen grab from a smart phone.

Keep it in character

Just as in other dialogue, the words must reflect the age, education and personality of the characters. In this exchange, young characters like Lauren and Kyle keep would use ‘text speak’ – so it gives the exchange authenticity. But a 70-something English professor would probably not send such a text. He’ll be using a SMS but he might make sure he uses language that is more formal.

Maybe he’ll prefer to send an email. This is, strictly speaking, a form of first person viewpoint rather than dialogue, but it’s worth looking at how you’d lay that out too. It might look like:

To: amelia@gooba500.com <AmeliaGoober>
Subject: RE: Missed flight

______________________________________________

Hi Amelia
I was very sorry to hear about your disastrous adventures in Istanbul. I hope the airline refunded your money. I know your iPhone was stolen, so I will keep in contact via Facebook or WhatsApp.
Lotsa love, Paul.

Make it seem real

I won’t pretend to know everything about how this type of ‘dialogue’ is changing fiction, but it’s a good idea for us to start thinking along these lines if we want our stories to be fresh, exciting and relevant.

Some authors do it really well, like Marian Keyes and other chick-lit stars. Young Adult fiction definitely shows a trend towards this style. I recently read a book made up entirely of Twitter messages. Look at out how other writers are incorporating social media into their fiction – and see where you can use it in your own story.

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

by Anthony Ehlers

If you want to know more about dialogue, you will love:

  1. Let’s Talk Dialogue – How To Shape And Structure Spoken Words
  2. Let’s Talk Dialogue – Do You Say It Out Loud Or Keep It To Yourself?
  3. Let’s Talk Dialogue – 6 Ways Emphasis Can Change Meaning In Dialogue
  4. Let’s Talk Dialogue – 5 Ways Punctuation Makes It Perfect!
  5. Let’s Talk Dialogue – How Social Media Has Changed Dialogue

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