Writing Conversations That Don't Suck

August 28, 2017

You've heard terrible radio ads where Person A says "have you seen my new car?"

Person B says "you mean, the car out the front which has the latest European styling, the most technological suspension and tyres that grip the road in all conditions?"

"That's the one!"

 

Conversations don't have to be like that! Here are some rules when writing them.

 

Rule 1: Keep it realistic

Commercials and conversations, like that example suck because they're not real. No one ever speaks like that. 

 

I call Person B the know-it-all friend. If I had a friend like that, I would walk away from the conversation and never speak to them again.

 

 

Rule 2: Questions and answers

Our language is built on people asking questions and other people answering them.

 

When you choose to use conversations to sell a product, ask realistic questions. Then phrase answers the way a real person would answer them.

 

If someone asked where you bought your TV, you would say the shop name... You wouldn't start talking about the colour of the underwear the sales person was wearing at the time.

 

 

Rule 3: Mix your weighting

By weighting I mean, make your characters opposites - they don't have to be polar opposites. Let's say your conversation is selling a product, you could have an expert and a customer who isn't as knowledgeable. 

 

Here's a few more examples of different weighting:

Smart/dumb

Young/old

Male/female

Funny/straight

 

 

Rule 4: Limit spacing

Next time you're in a conversation, take note of how quickly you or your friend answer. It's surprising how we barely even let the other person stop speaking before we open our mouths.

 

Conversations will seem more natural when you allow it to flow naturally.

 

 

Rule 5: Include reactions 

You don't always come up with a great answer straight away. We add in thinking sounds, sounds of acknowledgement etc.

 

Whenever I'm direction a voiceover session with a conversation, I allow the talent to add sounds wherever it sounds natural. A short 'mmm' of acknowledgement can make a convo sound real.

 

 

Rule 6: Avoid heavy lifting

Person A:  Where did you get your car?

Person B:  Todd's Automotive on Princes Highway where this weekend they have a 50% off sale.

Person A:  Thanks, I'll go and check it out.

 

That's not a real conversation and sounds lame. The heavy lifting is everything after 'Highway' - get a voiceover to say that part.

 

Person A:  Where did you get your car?

Person B:  Todd's Automotive on Princes Highway.

VO:  This weekend they're running a 50% off sale - check it out!

 

That's a band-aid fix to make a voiceover do the heavy lifting and make the convo less lame.

 

 

Follow those rules and you'll see a quick improvement!

 

 

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