My Dad's Jokes Are Better Than Your Arguments

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Sometimes, arguments in books are fucking dumb. The characters are saying a lot of words, and they sound angry, but none of it means anything. I've closed out of many Wattpad books without resonating with the characters because their arguments are silly and childish, and they're all over the same dumb stuff. 

In the authors' defenses, getting characters to seem really angry over something that is important is hard. Well, not really, but I'm trying to be sympathetic. Kidding! I think we can all agree that there is a significant difference between petty bickering and full-blown, explosive arguments. Who cares if Jane Doe doesn't like that John Smith bites his nails? No one, so don't try to turn it into drama. 

Instead, write actual arguments. How do you do this? I'll tell you. 

1. Pick a Real Problem. As I've already mentioned, don't bicker. Stage full-fledged wars. If blood isn't drawn, I think I can speak for everyone when I say we won't be satiated. Not real blood, just metaphorical blood, as in wounding the character verbally. Anyways. Ask yourself, "Why is my character mad? Is this worth exploding over?" If not, raise the stakes. Maybe John Smith and Jane Doe are both anti-gun activists, until their house gets broken into. 

Soon after, John recants his belief, buys a gun, and trains actively at shooting ranges, vowing to protect himself and Jane. Of course, Jane is appalled. This goes against everything she believes! Where is the John she fell in love with? And there you go; a real argument is already brewing. 

2. Even the Score. Wait, but shouldn't there be a winner? Shouldn't one be right and the other be wrong? Yeah, if you want a shit argument. In reality, generally speaking, most people are always a little bit right and a little bit wrong, even though they always think they're 100% right. So play around with this. Maybe John asserts that he wants it for safety, which is partially true, but he also wants to be able to boast about how manly he is and show off his new skill. 

And maybe Jane is genuinely upset that John threw his beliefs out the window so quickly, and she truly does believe in putting an end to gun violence, but deep down, she's also just mad that he went out on a limb and bought the gun without even consulting with her first. Both sides of each of their arguments contain vices and virtues, and both sides with defend their positions and justify their anger, even when maybe they should be apologizing. 

Don't let one character have a great argument and justification for their actions, and then portray the other floundering to come up with a witty response. Don't let us know who will "win" so easily. 

3. Stay True to Character. If your leading lady is hot-headed and volatile when it comes to speaking her mind, don't portray her giving someone the cold shoulder and exuding glacial indifference. Keep your character's core personality in mind, and make sure their body language and overall tone in the argument are represented accurately. 

4. Plot. Yes, following a plot structure is the best way to write an argument. It should go: inciting incident, rising action, climax, and falling action. The inciting incident is the unspoken discourse and building emotions that lead to the explosion, like Jane finding out that John bought a gun without consulting with her or asking how she'd feel about it first. The rising action is actually engaging in the argument, like Jane confronting John about the issue. 

The climax is (obviously) the very peak of the intensity, where Jane and John are at each other's throats. Maybe what was supposed to be a nice, relaxing dinner at home has turned into a war zone, and Jane bites out, "You can't just do whatever you want!" And John slams his wine glass down onto the table so ferociously, it cracks, spitting back, "Looks like I just did." Then, the audience is left wondering what will happen. Will he storm out? Will she? The falling action is the aftermath, like the next day when Jane and John regard each other as though they're strangers, each feeling guilty but both too proud to admit it. 

5. Slow Burn. Don't have Jane meet John in chapter two and have them fighting like a married couple in chapter five. The reader won't care who wins or loses because they aren't invested in who they are yet. Build up the tension as you build up the relationship, until they will inevitably explode at each other and it's only a question of when. 

6. Dialogue. Please don't use too much dialogue. By this I mean:

"I hate you, John," Jane says. "You're immature and stupid."

"Not as stupid as this argument!" He responds, lip curling. 

"Yes, you are!"

"Quit yelling at me! You're always yelling, and yelling, and getting on my nerves!" He yells. 



"Make me!"

Obviously, this is exaggerated a bit, but you might be surprised how many arguments are comprised of this sort of content. And by content I mean lack thereof. Where's the body language, other than the one referencing to his lip curling? What are their bodies saying that their lips refuse to? In an argument, employ all five senses. The silence was deafening, and his ears rang with the magnitude of all of the unspoken words. He clenched his teeth so tightly together, he tased the metallic flavor of blood. The air reeked of the pungent odor of promises to love one another unconditionally rotting in the corner of the room. 

Other than that...


I'm done. 

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