Dialogue is a difficult aspect of storytelling. Capturing the nuances and reflexive dynamics of human conversation is not an easy task. But dialogue is also one of the most important aspects of storytelling.
Today I’m going to share 7 tips to help you write better dialogue.
1. Avoid info dumping. Dialogue can definitely be used to convey information but be careful not to use it as a shortcut to simply dump a bunch of info or backstory on your reader. One way to avoid this is to ask yourself: Does my character already know this information? If he does, then you’re simply including it for the reader’s sake. This not only pulls your reader from the story, but you risk losing your reader entirely.
2. Give your characters a unique way of speaking. Think about the people you know. How do they speak? What are some words or phrases they use? Do they speak softly? Or are they strong and deliberate in their speech? Is it staccato or flowing? Your characters also have words and phrases they like to use, a specific way of speaking. Keep these points in mind as you write each character’s dialogue.
3. Avoid small talk. Small talk in the real world is used to fill awkward silences. This type of conversation doesn’t move the plot forward and shouldn’t be included in your novel. Avoid starting conversations with phrases such as, “Hey, how are you?” Or “The weather sure is nice today.”
4. Be consistent. If your character is shy or soft-spoken in one scene, they probably shouldn’t be bold and sharp in the next. Keep them true to who they are. If done well, your reader should know who’s speaking without even reading a dialogue tag.
5. Consider relationships. Your character will probably (hopefully) speak differently to his mother than to his wife. Consider who your character is speaking to and adjust as necessary.
6. Don’t overuse dialogue tags. They can be disruptive and boring. Consider using action or descriptive follow-ups to dialogue. For example, “I said I was done.” She turned and walked out the door. When in doubt, keep it simple (he said/she said wins).
7. Read your dialogue aloud. (This should be done during the revision phase.) Does the dialogue flow? Sound natural? Are you tripping over words? If it doesn’t flow when reading aloud, then it won’t sound natural to your reader. If it doesn’t sound like an actual conversation, or if there’s a spot that doesn’t sound like your character, it’s time to revise.