small talk

Dragonlady

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 4, 2007
Messages
261
Any tips on writing small talk that sounds natural? I'm not a natural at it in real life, and struggle with it in my writing. It's a people-focused story, so a lot of the small talk is quite important, not just filler, and as a lot of the story is social interaction I don't want it to feel stilted or rushed. The current scene I'm trying to write is the female protagonist sitting at a dinner party, having been placed next to her future love, who she looks down on and doesn't really like. I need to find a way for all that information to be conveyed to the reader in a natural seeming way, when the two have known each other all their lives.

This is just one example, it's a general question too, all thoughts and resources would be welcome!
 

Land Under Wave

Incorrigible Fantasist
Joined
Jun 19, 2020
Messages
54
Location
Roundworld
Oh. Perhaps he's trying to talk to her, and she's trying not to, then? You can make some beautiful awkward moments that way....

But if it were me, I would think about motivation. Giving each of them a goal--even if it's just for this one scene. Because small talk for its own sake will swiftly make the reader lose interest. If, however, both characters are trying to accomplish something through their talk--or lack of it--it'll instantly make the scene more gripping. Try thinking about it like a verbal sparring-match--perhaps one which your female character is trying not to be a part of.
 

Elckerlyc

Achieved Score: "None Correct"
Supporter
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Messages
753
Location
The Netherlands
And as to the talk itself, look for what these 2 have in common. If they know each other all their lives, than there lives must have much in common. Like the dinner-party where they are both present. What is the occasion? Who is their host? Why are they both invited?
Anyone at the table can say something that pulls them both into a conversation and have a natural chat about the why & how of that party or other social happenings that are of importance to your story/protagonists. And there is always someone at the table who is even more dis-likable. Let him say something obnoxious and start a juicy conversation.

I am not one of small talk myself, but it helps to think what that relative who is would say.
 

tegeus-Cromis

a better poet than swordsman
Joined
May 17, 2019
Messages
1,286
I have been told by my readers that the dialogue in my novel sounds particularly natural... But I really have no advice beyond write; edit the hell out of it; rewrite; repeat about 15 times. (After you write it, read it out loud to make sure people would actually talk like that. You can even act it out with a friend.)

If their interaction and personalities are well defined, then who is speaking each line will be clear, and you can keep the "he said" "she said" bits at a minimum.

Action breaking up long pages of dialogue is good, but make sure it doesn't sound like a crutch, like it was added precisely to break up those pages. Ideally it should have some connection with the story, not just be stage business.

Write it out, if you want, with all the "uh"s and "um"s and "well"s, then try to edit out the vast majority of these and keep them only where absolutely necessary.
 

Astro Pen

Write now.
Supporter
Joined
Jan 24, 2020
Messages
445
Location
Wales UK
One of my all time favourite movies script wise is "When Harry met Sally"
Really the whole movie is just one long conversation. Worth watching and focusing on the dialogue.
In the unlikely event that you haven't seen it here is a clip
 

Dragonlady

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 4, 2007
Messages
261
@Land Under Wave yes, he likes her well enough and is attracted to her, but she is just a snob. The aim is not to have them like each other more as a result of this scene. @Elckerlyc good thinking, I need to come up with some sort of juicy gossip that she can use to make herself feel superior. They're both from cloth merchants' families, at a religious festival. @Astro Pen I haven't! It does look well written, i'll have to watch it!
 

.matthew.

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2020
Messages
506
Perhaps something about their families businesses. Her being a total snob (and a woman *cough* no offense) she'd have a fascination with fashions and what's popular. Maybe she's learnt about some new trend from somewhere foreign and the head of the merchant family is bringing it in on her assurance of it's success?

She'd get to be gloaty, superior, and puffed up at the same time.
 

ginny

registered bibliophile
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
118
I think small talk is okay in small pieces.
There comes a point in protracted small talk when the reader starts to ask, "where the hell is this going.'
 

DLCroix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2020
Messages
74
Hi! I would say that the variables of the story also influence. You can choose a Gossip Girls narrator who says, "oh, poor thing, how can he not see that he's bugging her!" or "Hey, star, invite her to dance, wake up!".
Or you can also use a first-person narrator. Which, in my opinion, feels closer because it allows you to tell your character how bad the guy likes her. "Oh, I couldn't stand it!" Or something like that.
There is also another resource; a third character is enough, usually a man, nice, with world, funny, who somehow keeps them talking, but as soon as he gets up from the table there is a silence in which, on the one hand, the boy realizes that he cannot break the ice and on the other hand the girl reacts with frank aggressiveness. "I love this place," he can say, for example. "Excuse me? Did you say something?", she can reply.
It has happened to me at some point, when I don't feel well somewhere it is very difficult for me to hide it; I do not know, I'm sarcastic, I jump to the first thing.
 
Top