Writing Dialogue- 10 Tips for Writing Good Dialogue

Writing Dialogue

10 Tips to Writing Good Dialogue

  • Dialogue is used with purpose to reveal information to the reader that is known to the character. Do this carefully. The lines should still sound realistic and one character should not be delegated all the exposition, this makes that character feel one dimensional and tedious.
  • Avoid information dumping. Space things out to create suspense and keep the sections of dialogue short. Most people don’t like being stuck listening to a long monologue- unless you’re Shakespeare and the character is talking to himself.
  • Make sure that the reader knows who is speaking– This involves really knowing your characters and what would be natural for them to say and what isn’t. Unique ways of speaking like accents can work but try to be true to life as not to create a stereotype.
  • English and writing is often grammatically correct but when we speak that isn’t often the case…People pause, use filler words like “Like, Umm, or Ahhh” A character could began a sentence with one idea and end with another. They can also interrupt people who are talking, finish their sentences and even sit in pregnant pauses.
  • A lot can be revealed by what is left out. If information is known by both character neither might feel the need to speak it.
  • Grammatically each speaker gets their own paragraph, use quotation marks and indent properly. Nothing is worse than not knowing your reading dialogue until after you’ve ready it.
  • Cut to the chase– disposing of pleasantries like long greetings can help keep the pace moving. Also exclude small talk unless it is riddle with meaning to be revealed later or says something important about the character.
  • Read your dialogue aloud. If you stumble saying it than re-write it more smoothly.
  • Accompany dialogue with action. When people naturally speak they react with facial expressions, nervous twitches and hand gestures. In addition, the world doesn’t stop just because we are talking. Tension can be added though a conversation that is interrupted by another character or event.
  • Look for the opportunity for “The Big Line” Those iconic lines that make the character and stick with the reader. EX. “Always” Harry Potter, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” Gone with the Wind, and “There’s no place like home,” The Wizard of Oz.

 

(Bonus) LISTEN. Art imitates life so study it. Listen to the speech patterns of your friends and family members, characters in movies and TV shows, and strangers on the street. Read and take note of how other writers tackle dialogue.

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