I’ve always been a fan of dialogue. Or, to be more accurate, I’m a fan of good dialogue. Dialogue that moves the plot forward, reveals character, and sets up for the next scene is an essential tool in any writer’s arsenal.
But when it comes down to it, writing believable dialogue can be tricky business. There are many ways we might write out our conversations with short sentences or long ones; with regional accents or no accents at all; with simple words or complex ones but there are also many wrong ways to do so as well.
|1. Dialogue is a powerful tool for engaging readers.
|2. Well-crafted dialogue can reveal character traits and emotions.
|3. Dialogue should advance the plot and contribute to conflict.
|4. Use dialogue to provide insights into relationships.
|5. Natural-sounding dialogue enhances reader immersion.
|6. Punctuation and formatting are crucial for clear dialogue.
|7. Balance exposition and dialogue to avoid info dumps.
|8. Each character’s voice should be distinct and authentic.
|9. Practice writing dialogue to refine your skills.
|10. Dialogue can create tension and keep readers hooked.
Use Regional Or Cultural Dialects Judiciously
You want to be careful with this one. You don’t want to overdo it, because that’ll make your story seem unrealistic and unprofessional. The same goes for making each character speak in a different dialect. For example, “I ain’t doing it” doesn’t work as well as “I don’t think I can do that.”
Here’s the thing: if you’re writing a story set in the South, then use regional dialects where appropriate but not every time someone opens their mouth!
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Avoid A Lot Of Dialects
Dialect is another tricky subject to navigate. A little goes a long way, and more than that can weigh down your dialogue and make it sound like you’re trying too hard. Avoid using too many dialect words or phrases; if you have to stop and explain what the word means, then it probably doesn’t belong in your dialogue.
Be careful about using words that sound like they are from another language (unless your character is speaking French), as well as words that sound like they are from another time or place.
While some of these may be appropriate for characters who live in a different world than us, they should be used sparingly so they don’t distract readers from the story itself.
Remember That One Person’s Speech Pattern Can Sound Like Dialect To Another
Dialect is a way of speaking particular to a certain area of the country. For example, in the South, people say “y’all,” whereas in New England they say “you guys.” This can be used to give a sense of place, but it can also be used to stereotype characters or show their social class.
If you’re writing historical fiction set in the South during Jim Crow times and you want your character’s dialogue to sound authentic without being offensive (or just plain offensive), keep this in mind.
Dialect is not universal. Your reader may not understand what your character is saying unless they’re from that region themselves or if they’re very familiar with its history and culture.
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Keep The Dialogue As Natural And Real Looking As Possible
The point is to make sure your dialogue sounds like it’s coming from real people, not a script. To do that, you need to avoid the following:
Use contractions when appropriate
Use slang where it makes sense and doesn’t sound forced or cheesy
Avoid regional terminology unless it’s essential to your story and/or characters’ lives (e.g., if someone is writing about their hometown of New York City)
Avoid using “I” too much; instead, try using “you” or “we” as often as possible to create a more natural flow of conversation between characters
Make Sure What Your Characters Say Is Authentic
The next step is to make sure what your characters say is authentic. When writing dialogue, keep in mind that people don’t just say whatever they want. They may be hesitant or nervous about revealing something personal, so they may not tell their whole story in one sitting.
They also probably won’t open up and reveal their deepest secrets on the first date! People are cautious about sharing too much information with strangers they usually only share as much as they feel comfortable doing at that moment in time (see Rule #1).
Another thing to consider when writing dialogue is that when someone does open up after some prodding from another character, it can take time for him or her to get there; there might be a lot of back-and-forths before the character finally reveals what he/she needs to say about his/her experience.
This is why authentic dialogue doesn’t always follow an obvious linear path; sometimes people will “go off topic” before getting back on track again later on in the conversation (this happens a lot when talking with family members who know each other well).
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Don’t Write Out Every Stutter, Pause, Or “Uh”
Don’t write out every stutter, pause, or “uh.” You don’t have to include every word that is not a dialogue tag for your characters to sound natural.
If you’re writing fiction, your goal is to create a world that feels real enough for readers to lose themselves in the story. One of the ways you can do this is by allowing your characters’ thoughts and emotions to come through as clearly as their words do. This means using internal dialogue tags sparingly, especially if they’re unnecessary for conveying meaning (see below).
Use Short Sentences
You’ll notice that short sentences are easier to read, understand and remember. Shorter sentences keep the reader’s attention and help you write more concisely and directly.
Short sentences can also make your writing sound more professional by giving off a sense of confidence in your craftsmanship. This is why many writers will use short sentences at the beginning of their essays or articles to give themselves time to get into the swing of things before they start writing longer ones later on.
Don’t use “small talk” for filler at the beginning of a conversation.
As a general rule, you should avoid using filler words at the beginning of a dialogue. These are generally used to fill time or allow the speaker to think about what he/she is saying before speaking.
If you have written a scene that includes an awkward silence, it’s better to let that be conveyed by the reader than by having your character say “Um…”, “Ah…” or some other word or sound (i.e., “Ummmmmmmmm”).
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Additionally, When Writing Two Characters Talking With Each Other, Try Not To Make Them Say Things Like
So…what did you do in college?
Don’t build in needless dialogue tags or fluff words that don’t move the plot forward.
The first step to writing better dialogue is using the word “said” as often as possible. Don’t use adverbs like “he said loudly,” or “she asked softly.” When you can stick to the simple word “said.”
Another way to improve your dialogue is by not adding unnecessary words to it. Instead of saying “he asked her,” say “asked.” If a character’s name is clear from what else you’ve written, then don’t bother saying his name in front of every question he asks!
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Avoid Wordy Dialogue Tags
Avoid using dialogue tags that are longer than the dialogue. It’s okay to use a tag such as “he said” or “she replied”, but anything beyond that can get awkward, especially if you have multiple characters speaking at once (e.g., “Sally said,” then “Bob replied”).
While these short variations may seem insignificant, if you’re trying to write snappy, smooth dialogue for your story, they’ll start adding up quickly—and make your writing look more stilted and unnatural than it already does.
Instead Of Saying
Bill: “What do we do now?” Bob asked as he paced back and forth across the room in his pajamas.
Try saying: Bill made his way over to Bob and put his hand on his shoulder for support before he answered him; “We wait until morning,” he said simply
As you can see, the tips above can be used to make your dialogue more authentic and engaging. It’s important to remember that your characters are people first and foremost. Their job is to tell a story, not just read lines off the page. If they sound like real people, then readers will be drawn into the story and stay there until they’re done reading it all.
Here are some additional resources for further enhancing your dialogue writing skills:
How to Write Dialogue: Tips and Examples Learn essential techniques and view examples for crafting engaging and authentic dialogue in your stories.
Mastering the Art of Writing Dialogue Explore a comprehensive guide on writing dialogue that captures your characters’ voices and advances your narrative.
Writing Dialogue: The Complete Guide Delve into this guide for a thorough understanding of dialogue structure, style, and its role in storytelling.
Got questions about writing compelling dialogue? We’ve got answers:
What is the purpose of dialogue in storytelling?
Dialogue serves multiple purposes in storytelling, such as revealing character traits, advancing the plot, and providing insights into relationships and conflicts between characters.
How can I make my dialogue sound natural?
To make dialogue sound natural, observe real-life conversations, focus on unique speech patterns for each character, and avoid overly formal or contrived language.
What are some tips for punctuating dialogue correctly?
Correct dialogue punctuation involves placing quotation marks around spoken words, using appropriate punctuation within the quotes, and formatting paragraph breaks when different characters speak.
How do I avoid exposition-heavy dialogue?
To avoid exposition-heavy dialogue, incorporate information subtly and naturally into conversations, revealing details only when they naturally fit the context of the conversation.
How can I differentiate between characters through their dialogue?
Distinct characters should have unique voices. Differentiate characters by varying their vocabulary, speech patterns, tone, and even their preferred sentence structures. This helps readers easily identify who is speaking.
Costantine Edward is a digital marketing expert, freelance writer, and entrepreneur who helps people attain financial freedom. I’ve been working in marketing since I was 18 years old and have managed to build a successful career doing what I love.