Character Study - Bantering

Dialogue is hard. You’d think it would the easiest part of writing, making people express themselves like  they do every time you talk.  But sometimes getting people to say what you want to move the story along is difficult to do naturally. One of the hardest parts of this is if you want multiple characters to talk back-and-forth in a way that the reader can see as quick to the point and sometimes funny. A lot of the time we call this banter which was very popular in movies of the 1930s and 40s. It was a good way to establish certain characters (especially independent and strong willed women in a time of strong social restrictions).

 But the idea of this kind of banter can go back even further and it exists in some books that are excellent examples"

Shakespeare’s "Much Ado About Nothing" includes Beatrice and Benedict,  a pair who both loath and love each other. Many of their quick witted conversations are some of the greatest jokes Shakespeare ever included in any of his plays. The speak back and forth seamlessly, which comes through so clearly in the writing many actors have explained how much fun they are to play. 

Of all the strange examples, Jane Eyre is full of excellent conversations, contemporary of their time. Jane and Rochester are not the pure angst they are usually portrayed as in the movie adaptations. The pair actually fall in love through speaking with one another. Jane is a character who makes her opinions known and Rochester's reactions to her blunt manner are give his character as more than dowdy and mysterious.

In modern writing, one of my favorite all-time writers of dialogue is Jim Butcher. The Dresden Files series is littered with interesting, paranormal characters in an urban setting. Many of the characters are contemporary and must speak in that way, however they also must talk about curses, monsters, and knights. Butcher weaves these topics into everyday speech with great skill and humor.

Lastly, this is no better teacher than your own ears. People watch. Listen. Write down conversations of complete strangers. Nothing will give you better ideas than that.