Wednesday, August 14, 2013

4 Tips for Writing Effective Dialogue

Effective dialogue should be realistic, character building, plot-related, and, above all, interesting. With the following tips, you can begin to improve the dialogue in your writing instantly.
  1. Think about what your characters are saying. Is this what somebody would say realistically? Listen to conversations when you’re out and about, whether you’re on the bus or in line at the supermarket. Pay attention. This will help you start to think about how people generally communicate with one another.

    Listen to the tone of their voices and the kinds of words they use to establish their relationships. Is the average person likely to use a word like ‘tenacious’ in an everyday sentence when a more commonly used word would be ‘stubborn?’

    These are all things you need to be thinking about and asking yourself when writing dialogue. Say what you’ve written aloud to ensure it sounds realistic when spoken.

  2. So, somebody might say it realistically… but should you really write it into your story? By the same token, going too far in the other direction should be avoided too! People frequently say things like ‘I’m going to the bathroom,’ but it doesn’t make for interesting reading.

    For example, if two of your characters are having a conversation, don’t have them interject with things like this. It’s dry and doesn’t help the reader.
  3. Your characters should always be saying something. Long conversations about nothing in particular aren’t at all interesting. The following is an example:

    Bob: I’m going to make some coffee.
    Bobette: Can I have one too, please?
    Bob: Sure. Where have you put the coffee this time?
    Bobette: Top shelf. So, today I went to the shop…

    And so on and on and on. Everyday conversations that are somewhat mandatory in real life, but dull as dishwater to read about, do not make for effective dialogue.
  4. Think to yourself, ‘is this something my character would say?’ A middle aged character is not going to use the same dialogue as their fictional teenage son. Keep asking yourself questions as you write dialogue, and even more so during editing, such as: ‘does this sound like my character? Would my character say this?’ and so on. It might feel like hard work at first, but soon it will become second nature.

  5. Are you furthering the plot? So, you’ve reached the climax of your story. There is chaos everywhere. And your characters start having a conversation about how many trees there are around them.
Okay, this is an unlikely example. But the point is, ensure that your characters are not having discussions that are irrelevant, or speaking for the sake of it. Yes, you need dialogue for the purpose of building your characters, but they must always be furthering the plot at the same time. For this purpose, dialogue is just as important as narrative.

Writing good dialogue takes practise and a great deal of thought. Keep all of the above in mind and you’ll find yourself writing effective dialogue in no time.

Stephanie-Louise Farrell is an up-and-coming authoress who has already published a popular selection of short stories called 'Haunted' and is now engaged on writing a full-length novel. She is represented by Any Subject Books.

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