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How to write a novel | comedy dialogue


If you’re following my story about Nick and Lily and their love-hate relationship, you will know that they went to visit  Victoria, Lily’s friend from university. Mr Knight is the Lord of the Manor and Nick has a job working for him as an assistant gardener. The comedy must come in the dialogue between the characters and most of all in the dialogue between Nick and Lily. I need an event to trigger some dialogue.

At the end of the day Nick returned to his camper van, tired after a hard day’s work; smelling of sweat and compost. It wasn’t until he was inside the camper van and  in a confined space, that he realised just how bad the smell was. Just then a knock came at the door, it was Lily.

“Come in.” Nick called as he washed some of the dirt from his hands.

“What’s that smell?” Lily asked as she came into the camper van.

“Compost!” Nick replied, picking up the towel.

“Thank God for that, for a moment I thought it was you!”

“It is, I have been mucking out bloody stables and making compost with the muck!” Nick didn’t  know what to do next. He reached for the kettle and filling it with water, he placed it on the stove to boil.

“You can use the bathroom over at the lodge, we’ve been invited to dinner tonight,”

“Oh, great. We’ve come to dinner, can I use your bathroom, because I stink of horse excrement.”

“Don’t sit down!” Lily exclaimed, “You’ll make the seating stinky! You will have to come now and bring some air freshener!”

“Why do I need air freshener?”

“You’ll stink the bathroom up! Take a bath, clean the bathroom after you and then spray it with air freshener. Got that?” Lily said forcefully.

“Yes, madam,” Nick replied following her out of the camper van and in the direction of the lodge.

It is a good idea to have something, like compost, to provoke the conversation and make it amusing. Comedy doesn’t need to be a laugh a minute, it’s best to start with something really funny and then after that, mildly amusing will seem much funnier. It is also a good idea to read dialogue out loud to see if it sounds natural. People talk and stop, thinking about what to say next; especially when they are trying to say something funny or sarcastic. They wander off the point, get distracted and talk while doing something else. They also use innuendo a lot and in a one to one conversation like the one above, the conversation can be more risqué than when other people are around.

Don’t get into too more detail when you’re writing, leave lots to the imagination of your readers. Nick might have taken shower gel and a towel with him when he left the camper van as well as air freshener, but did you notice that he didn’t? The towel can perhaps be mentioned when he goes into the bathroom. Do we need to describe him taking a bath? I don’t think so unless he has a conversation with Lily through the bathroom door, when she reminds him to clean the bath after him. This is only a novella, not war and peace. Any events or dialogue that the reader might skip because they are boring; I might as well skip writing. The reader will be interested in how the readers interact. Skipping events will make it appear as if there are gaps in the story and so I can refer to Nick taking a bath in passing.

Nick glanced back as he left the bathroom, making sure it was as spotlessly clean as he had found it. He ran into Lily on the landing.

“Have you cleaned up after yourself. I’m not having you embarrass me,” Lily demanded, looking into the bathroom.

“Absolutely spotless,” Nick replied brushing back his hair, still wet from his bath.

“Not a hair to be seen,” Lily replied, leaning over the bath, “You are house trained.”

“I’ll go back to the camper van and get dressed,” Nick adjusted his bathrobe as he walked along the landing and headed for the front door.

I hope you have learnt something today about writing dialogue and comedy dialogue in particular. It is difficult making it funny and it’s often a good idea to keep reading it out loud until it sound natural.

There are more amazing blogs on a zillion ideas. Please comment if you have a question or an idea.

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5 responses

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