Writing Conversation Scenes

someone187 asked: “How do I write conversations with a lot of people?  I’m trying, but it comes out a little awkwardly, and I don’t know how to give everyone an equal opportunity to contribute to the conversation. And sometimes, some characters feel like they’re just there even though they are needed in said scene.”

This is something that I think a lot of young writers struggle with, only for the solution to be really not all that complicated. First off, in natural conversations, even if there are a lot of people present and listening, often still the conversation is between two, maybe three people at most – or at least, if you’re going to have major back and forth, it likely will only be between two people. 

One character listening might interject an opinion or even steer the conversation away into an argument, but still even then, I don’t think everyone will feel the need to speak. Sit by and listen to a large group of friends speak. You might be surprised what you see.  

Another thing that tends to happen is that other characters might break off into their own conversations with each other if they don’t feel actively engaged in the previous discussion. The truth is that not everyone needs to contribute and for the most part, if they aren’t feeling relevant, they just won’t speak at all or go start a new conversation with someone else who looks bored. 

A character can be just “there.” But I think if they are just going to be sitting idly by, think of what that looks like for them. Are they playing with their phone? Looking for something to snack on? Trying to make conversation about something they like more? If they are going to be sitting by, take that as a chance to show who they are as a character. A social butterfly is not going to just sit by quietly. Let them flit around the room, chatting, cracking jokes, taking pictures – whatever it is that they do. 

Your characters can show who they are without speaking up. Let them be themselves in the conversation and do what they’ll do. A character who is not talking to anyone and attempting to make friends with the house cat is showing as much who they are as the person speaking. Remember, the more people that are there, the less likely everyone will be present at or hear every major conversation. 

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