The following article concentrates on dialog in video games, but the discussion is valid for all media. Yes, even TV writers can learn from gamers. Craft is universal, just like creativity itself:
HOW TO WRITE GOOD DIALOGUE: COURTESY OF MASS EFFECT
Here’s a question for you. You’re reading a book and the pace starts to drag, but you’re still curious to know what happens next. What do you do? The answer for me is obvious: you skip to the next section of dialogue. Good dialogue takes the story forward and shows character. Good dialogue crackles on the page. A confrontational exchange can be like two boxers slugging it out, trading punch and counter-punch. But what makes “good” dialogue, and more importantly how do you write it?
’m going to try to answer those questions by looking at a series of computer games calledMass Effect. Many of you will be familiar with them already, but for those of you who aren’t, bear with me. For the purposes of this article, all you need to know about the games is that they have lots of dialogue, and that you get to choose (to a degree) what your character says, and therefore what sort of character he or she is.
When your character, Shepard, speaks in Mass Effect, a “conversation wheel” appears on the screen. At the top of the wheel you have the Paragon or “good guy” option (blue), whilst at the bottom is the Renegade or “bad guy” option (red). For reasons of space, you don’t get to see on the screen exactly what Shepard will say for each option. Instead you get an abridged version that gives you a flavour of what your character will come out with. The magic of the game’s writers is in turning that short, bland version into something more colourful. Here are a couple of examples: