Richard Price on Writing Dialogue

Writing dialogue is a knack, Price says. Either you have it, or you don't.
  • Transcript


Question: How do you write dialogue?

Richard Price: It’s pretty intuitive. I think dialogue is a knack; either you have it or you don’t. A lot of writers find other elements of writing a lot easier than I do. I have a terrible time writing the King’s English. I couldn’t punctuate a four-word sentence if my life depended on it. I hear people. When I’m writing, I hear people. I do improv. I’ll be out on the street and I’ll pick up the rhythm of it but it’s not like anthropology. It’s not like I’m trying to get the glossary right. It’s just about expressing how somebody’s brain works through what comes out of their mouth. I went to management meetings at Schiller’s and I rode around with cops a lot. I was kind of a fly on the wall but all I’m basically looking for is what’s plausible. Before I start lying, let me lie responsibly. What are the parameters of plausibility and given that, once I know that if I do this, that’s way over the line of possibility, I won’t do it. The other thing is I want to write in such a way as somebody who’s showing me the ropes will read the book or see the movie or whatever it is, and not close the book or walk out of the theater like a third of the way through saying “Well, that was a waste of time.” They’re sort of my audience in an obsessive way. I want them to say “Wow, he really nailed it.” It’s arbitrary. It’s literature. It can be anything you want. It’s not social realism, it’s not photojournalism but I do have that obsessive desire to nail things for what it’s worth.

Recorded On: 3/3/08