#A-Z Challenge: D is for Dialogue

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

D is for Dialogue

dialogue

Getting dialogue right is hugely important. Dialogue drives plot forward, enhances character development, and reveals emotion and motivation.

So how do you write effective dialogue?

  • Be nosy. Listen in to other people’s conversations and make a note of how they speak. You’ll notice elements like contractions (hasn’t, didn’t etc.), figures of speech and turn-taking that occur in natural speech.
  • Read your dialogue out loud. This really helps to make sure that it sounds natural rather than forced and contrived.
  • Don’t be too natural though! Your reader doesn’t want to hear all the repetitions and pauses that go along with actual speech. Cut these bits out and get rid of anything that doesn’t add to the plot.
  • Don’t use a variety of dialogue tags. ‘Chuckled’, ‘proclaimed’, ‘bellowed’ etc. just sound as though you’re desperately trying to think of a different word to ‘said’ or asked’. Which you probably are.
  • Avoid exposition. Although dialogue can be used to reveal information and move the plot along, don’t fall into the trap of having your characters discussing things they already know. Be very careful to ensure that readers do not feel that dialogue is being used simply to let them (the reader) know certain facts. Let the reader ascertain things from what your character is saying. Trust your readers – don’t force feed them details.
  • Read. Anyone who is serious about writing needs to read. A lot. And reading someone else’s work can help a great deal when it comes to writing dialogue. When you come across dialogue that works really well, work out how the writer did that. And when dialogue doesn’t work, again, work out what went wrong. You’ll then know what to do and what not to do when it comes to your own work.

Do you have any hints or tips to share about writing dialogue? Please share by leaving a comment below.

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16 comments

  1. You’ve addressed my pet hate here – dialogue used solely for the conveying of information. “How’s your cousin, Constance?” “Much better since she gave up working as a lawyer.” “Oh yes, she did that when she was falsely accused of theft, didn’t she? Yet they got the person who did it!” “Yes, if you remember rightly, it was Primrose Smith, recently divorced mother of three.” “What is she like as a next door neighbour, now she has moved next door to you?” Ghastly! I (start to) read so many books where there is no characterisation within the dialogue, it’s just used as a vehicle to explain the plot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly – great example! It just comes over as so contrived and forced and of course it immediately takes a reader out of the world of the story and reminds them that they’re reading a book.

      Like

  2. Totally agree with everyone here Alison and Terry’s example is superb. I also love that trick when a character says something and the other person either doesn’t answer or changes the subject completely. Instantly the reader feels the conflict and is intrigued if it’s done well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great tips! Eavesdropping on conversations is a favorite of mine, and I’ve gleaned jewels from doing just that. But balancing it out against the “don’t be too natural” thing is a good, good thing to keep in mind. And reading out loud–yes! Actually, I do that for everything, not just dialogue, since I discovered, while recording a story of mine, that some of the prose might look good on paper but it had glitches that only came out out loud. Great post! I’ll be back for sure 🙂
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    Liked by 1 person

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