Monday, February 25, 2013

He Says, She Says

I had a great time at The Buzz Book Fair in Cincinnati over the weekend, and presented a workshop on writing dialogue to a group of enthusiastic beginning writers.

I provided time for an exercise at the end, and three attendees were willing to read their fictional conversations. I was really impressed with the pieces read--all were very well written and quite entertaining!

Speaking of dialogue (cheesy pun intended), something I touched on in the workshop was the difference in communication styles between men and women.

Men are more direct and brusque in tone. They use simpler vocabulary with fewer modifiers, and are likely to use one word responses and shorter sentences.  Instead of talking about people and feelings, they’d rather talk about things.  

Women, however, love talking about people and relationships.  Their language is softer, and they’re more likely to talk around a subject.  “I’m not too happy about this,” she might say, while he says, “I’m mad as hell!”  Women express themselves in complete sentences, and want to share their feelings.

Today, I thought I'd pass this article along from the website Your Tango, written by Richard Drobnick of The Mars and Venus Counseling Center. It provides some information to keep in mind when writing dialogue from the perspective of the opposite sex.

He believes communication should have a clear purpose. Behind every conversation is a problem that needs solving or a point that needs to be made.

She uses communication to discover how she is feeling and what it is she wants to say. She sees conversation as an act of sharing and an opportunity to increase intimacy with her partner.

He prioritizes productivity and efficiency in his daily life, and conversation is no exception. When he tells a story he has already sorted through the muck in his own head, and shares only those details that he deems essential to the point of the story. He might wonder, "Why do women need to talk as much as they do?" Often he will interrupt a woman once he has heard enough to offer a solution.

She uses communication to explore and organize her thoughts — to discover the point of the story. She may not know what information is necessary or excessive until the words come spilling out. But a woman isn't necessarily searching for a solution when she initiates a conversation. She's looking for someone to listen and understand what she's feeling.

Do you have any tips to make dialogue sound more feminine or masculine?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!   

17 comments:

Teri Anne Stanley said...

This is great stuff! I'm writing a story with a more beta male lead and a more alpha female...so I'm having some challenges with dialogue...I don't want him to come off sounding wimpy or her to be too brusque.
I'll let you know if I figure it out...

shelly said...

Good post! You're so right.

Hugs and chocolate,
Shelly

William Kendall said...

Very good post, Maria. It's true, generally speaking as guys we're short and to the point in the way we speak.

Old Kitty said...

I'm kind of reminded of Dawson's Creek - where everyone - boys and gals emoted verbally to such an extend, I'd be scratching my head trying to understand what they were trying to say to each other! Then I guess scriptwriting may be a little bit different to actual novel writing? No idea! LOL!

Take care
x

Maria McKenzie said...

@Teri Anne: I know some real life couples like you're writing about. In the old days they'd say she wore the pants in the family;).

@Shelly: Thanks! Btw, got a free copy of your book last week!

@William: My husband always tells me to get to the point!

@Kitty: Even the guys were talkative? Hmm...Don't know what to say about that script writer;).

Alicia Coleman said...

Great post! Wonderful information.

Maria McKenzie said...

Thanks, Alicia! Glad you stopped by:).

Shelly said...

This is a valuable lesson in life, as well as in writing dialogue. Thank you for sharing-

Maria McKenzie said...

Shelly, you're welcome!

Jennette Marie Powell said...

In my books, the guys tend to grunt or walk away if they don't want to talk! They swear more, too. :) I guess it works - my male readers say they sound like guys!

Maria McKenzie said...

I love all those guy like tips! Grunting, walking away, swearing--very realistic;).

The Desert Rocks said...

My main character has more of an imagination and seems to take off into dreamland quite often which might be expected because she's an artist but I also don't think it would work for a male artist.
:)

Maria McKenzie said...

I agree--taking off into dreamland sounds much more feminine;).

Maria Perry Mohan said...

I've read some pretty stilted dialogue lately for reviews and I couldn't help asking myself 'hey, do I write like that?'. I really enjoyed the dialogue in your novel ESCAPE - you have a lovely touch with dialogue.

Maria McKenzie said...

Maria, thank you for your kind words! I'm sure your dialogue is beautiful:). I think when you read a lot for review, you get a good feel for what sounds real and what doesn't.

Sandra Cox said...

Great info. Thanks for sharing.
Glad it was a success.

Maria McKenzie said...

Thanks, Sandra! Glad you stopped by:).