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Achieve great dialog

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Tips for Achieving Great Dialog

“So I said to him…”

“So I says to him…”

“So I told that bastard…”

“So I informed him…”

“So I was, like…”

Each of the examples above is a five word piece of dialog that lets the reader in on a little secret. Each phrase details the character who uttered the phrase. With the right choice of dialog, a writer can quickly and concisely convey a great number of facts.

Almost unconsciously the reader assimilates detail. He understands the speaker’s position in society, his background, class, his race, the level of his education, perhaps his age.

The ability to write good, believable dialog is crucial to the creative writer’s craft. Dialog breaks up the exposition of a text, and makes it more readable. It breathes life into the characters. It gives the reader insight into the character’s personality and life. It moves the plot of the story forward.

Your dialog should:

  1. Always advance the story.
  2. Tell the reader something about the characters and their relationships
  3. Help set the mood and scene.

How to achieve great dialog

Tips for Achieving Great Dialog

Choose your vocabulary very carefully when you give words to your characters. Remember that the kind of words spoken will reveal much about your hero or villain, or victim.

Read , read, read.

Learn from others.

Listen, listen, listen.

Develop your own ear. Listen carefully to how people speak. Jot down great phrases or colorful language as you hear it. Conversations overheard in the supermarket can bear terrific fruit in your work. And a writer is always working, even when lining up to buy oranges

Don’t overdo the use of jargon, and accents. Your reader must be able to understand what the character is saying. A character from the wilds of the Scottish Highlands can speak with a  brau bricht accent, must still be comprehensible to all readers.

Remember what Alfred Hitchcock said. “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” That’s even more true with respect to dialog in fiction. In real life, people take a long time to say things. Your dialog will be edited, more concise, more punchy.  In other words, yes, more dramatic.”

Read your dialog out loud to yourself and others. You will hear the elements that ring true and those that sound phony.

Do not provide a long list of facts in your dialog. Remember, you are writing a dialog, not a monologue. . The words should sound natural;, not like a lecture.

Allow your characters to do the natural thing and carry on their actions while speaking, too. People normally move around and do other things while they speak whether they complete the washing up, or twist a knife into a victim’s thigh.

Remember to apply the rules of grammar. Your dialog will read much more clearly and will be easily readable if the spoken words are clearly delineated.

Remember that you don’t need to beef up the dialog with descriptive verbs as tags. Don’t use, “whined,” when “said” will do.

Check our our writing tips archive for more great posts like this one!


Posted on September 8, 2014 by Erin

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