Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters

Too Real For Fiction


I Can’t Make this Stuff Up…

    When Real Life Dialogue is More Cliché than Fiction…

Okay, picture me sitting at a Wildewood show at Scalo on Central and I’m all alone. I’m waiting for my older sister and her husband to show up and keep me company while we watch the band perform. I arrived early and had to wait almost thirty minutes. As I’m sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, pretending to read, and sipping on my water, I listen to people talk.

I eavesdrop.

I cannot help it.

I’m listening to these girls at the table that is so close beside me, I could reach out and accidentally grab their glass, like Jason (Topher Grace) in Valentine’s Day.

I listen to them talk. I listen to this girl’s ramblings about this guy who doesn’t treat her right, this other guy she can’t stand, and another guy who won’t call her back. Her best friend can’t get a word in and I doubt she ever does. It’s one of those friendships. I have time to kill so I keep listening, my eyes cast down on the pages of the book I’m not reading (wondering in the back of my mind if anyone has noticed that I’m not turning any pages… but I’m not about to lose my place just to keep up a facade). I don’t really mind what I’m hearing. It’s all her own story, all something that I couldn’t necessarily come up with on my own. Then she says it. And I’m not quite sure if I love her for it or hate her for it. Here is what I cannot stop thinking about. And I’m going to attempt to write this out as if it’s a clip out of a novel. I’m going to write it like it’s fiction. The dialogue is REAL LIFE, people!


Nina took another sip of wine, rolling her eyes again, because what she was about to tell her best friend was what she had been contemplating all day long. She thought long and hard about how to describe her life at that moment. What would fully capture the heartache and confusion she was experiencing? Well, Nina had finally figured it out.

“Ohmygod, Jen. It’s like, I’m one of those little tiny brown things that Ursula has trapped under the ocean with her. I’m just stuck there, withering away and unable to get out.”

Then Nina told her friend something even more personal. Even more emotionally heart wrenching, in her own opinion. Her eyes teared up before she spoke. Jen leaned forward with eyes wide and her mouth slightly open. Nina’s hand landed on her chest as she took a deep breath and said, “Only, am I Ursula? Am I holding myself back? WHO IS URSULA?”

Jen, the poor best friend who had spent the last five years listening to Nina’s inner monologue, gasped, and shook her head.


Yes. Scenes from The Little Mermaid are creeping back into your head. They crept back into mine, too. And although I get it, the analogy that we are our own “Ursulas” and are keeping ourselves trapped in a dark place, I had a hard time not laughing out loud. I agree with “Nina” to some extent, even. What I can’t get past is the fact that if I were to actually write that into a short story or novel, I have a very strong reason to believe that the people closest to me in this world would probably laugh and advise me to “make my dialogue a little bit more realistic… a little less dramatic.”

Wouldn’t you???

Writers spend quite a bit of time trying to come up with “the perfect dialogue,” as if there were such a thing. Honestly. I think writing dialogue is fun. Yes, I re-write, edit, and try to re-work anything I do. But at the end of the day, if I can see the words spoken in the little scene playing in my head, I’ll most likely go ahead and write it. Greg has called me out on dialogue he didn’t like, and then a friend who read the same thing said that part felt real to them. And vice versa!

This whole phenomenon lead me to another thought: WE SAY A LOT OF CLICHE THINGS!!! We do! As humans, our language is filled with common phrases and words. It’s normal, I think. It’s not a bad thing. But next time you read something and it’s the dialogue that seems off, ask yourself… is it really?

So I suppose writers need to stick to their guns a little bit. Unless a super-duper ninja agent is telling you to change something, stick to your gut! (I’m a big proponent of going with first instincts…)

I always do.

Have you heard (or caught yourself saying) any ridiculous, but real, dialogue lately?

Author: Melinda Haas

Melinda is a writer, blogger, artist and teacher. She lives in Wisconsin with her family.

8 thoughts on “Too Real For Fiction

  1. poor unfortunate souls!
    love you, mel! see you soon! xo!

  2. I have just caught myself talking out loud when I am alone and answering my own questions! :)

  3. Loved this post. I enjoy writing dialogue, too, but definitely tend to second-guess myself. However, whenever I read novels, I don’t usually think “this sounds so unnatural” (unless it is just terrible). I think it is because people say so many different things…my first thought is usually to believe it because, why not? If it moves the story forward, and you aren’t wasting words, well, I think there is something to be said for including it.

  4. Pingback: Too Real For Fiction {Part II} « Hey Lou Writes

  5. I definitely think I would have called them out on the random Little Mermaid reference if I were editing! haha! I totally agree, though, that dialogue is hard to write. The strange thing is that we actually try NOT to write like real-life dialogue, because RL dialogue is usually really boring and cliche and full of pauses and made-up words and unclear analogies. I love writing dialogue too. It’s hard, though, like you said.

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