Writing dialogue is an effective way to show the reader what’s happening in your story. But get it wrong and you risk loosing the readers interest. In a previous post I showed the Do’s and Don’t of writing dialogue – check it out if you haven’t already. Today I thought it would be helpful to go over some fundamental pointers in how to get your characters to show the world you’ve created through dialogue.
Tip 1 – Write as often as you can, read vicariously and listen intently. People listening is the best way to grasp dialogue. Take note when watching you favorite TV show, and see how each character is portrayed through the words they speak. People/ characters talk differently, so listen in and take pointers. Some are blunt and stoic, some blunder and waffle, while others wend beautiful, lyrical tales. Remember: be aware of whats being said, and equally what’s not being said.
Tip 2 – Don’t forget to add body language. Not only will this bring your character and the scene to life, but subtle body movements add depth to what’s being said. An easy smile changes a casual, ‘hello and welcome’ into a warm and generous greeting. Whereas, a pinched brow and clipped tone add a different meaning. Perhaps this character feels obligated to welcome someone, or maybe they’re in a bad mood.
Tip 3 – People often don’t say what they’re thinking or feeling, so layer up the context with internal dialogue. It’s a great way to show conflict and build tension. Mary pasted on a fake smile, and opened the door. “Hello and welcome.” God, she despised this woman. And yet her role as manager forced her to be polite, when what she really wanted was to slam the door in her face.
Tip 4 – Use contractions. Don’t be afraid to shorten or combine words, to help the character sound as natural as possible. While a professor may use precise wording, a student will often use contractions. For example: Let’s, I’m, who’s and they’re.
Tip 5 – Cut unnecessary words. In real life we tend to stutter, flounder, and add filler noises like umm, well, basically, so, hey, hi, good day and how are you? Such words when used in dialogue slow the pace and become boring. Readers don’t need constant polite introductions or goodbyes, they want dialogue that keeps the momentum of the story going. Remember – that’s not to say never use such words, just be conscious not to fill your dialogue with them.
Tip 6 – Dialogue must serve a purpose to advance the story. The whole point of writing dialogue is to show the reader things that progress the plot, build characters, show backstory and/ or entertain. It doesn’t drone on just for the sake of having characters converse. Keep everything succinct to the story and integral to the characters.
Tip 7 – Read your dialogue out loud. Make sure it sounds realistic, and then make sure it sounds like your character. Each character will have their own distinct voice. Your character may have an individual turn of phrase, or often call people buddy. These things can really help to differentiate them within your story.
Do you have any tips on how to write great dialogue? Or perhaps you have a great line that you’d like to share from your current WIP. If so, please share it, you know I love hearing from you.
Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.