Dialogue

Dialogue Instantly Reveals Your Skill as a Writer

Bad dialogue signals the work of an amateur who has failed to grasp the mechanics of speech, while good dialogue illuminates your characters, moves your plot forward, develops relationships, and opens a window into the story.

However, creating good dialogue is hard work. It takes a lot of practice and patience but, believe me, once you’ve mastered it, your credibility as an author will improve tremendously.

“That is fantastic news,” he said happily.

Does that sentence look right to you? If it does, you have just fallen into the very common trap of actually telling your reader twice about your character’s feelings. “That is fantastic news” clearly conveys happiness, so why use the adverb “happily” to repeat it?

Explaining your dialogue like that can alienate and frustrate your readers. They’re intelligent enough to understand what’s going on, so don’t patronize them by highlighting the obvious.

Doing that also prevents your readers from getting to really know your characters on a deeper, more personal level. If you tell them that your character did something happily, all they will know is that your character was happy, which means nothing.

Consider the following: “I can’t believe it!” he said.

In this example, there is no dialogue explanation, which has achieved two things. First, it has tightened up the dialogue so the focus is now on what is being said, rather than how it is being. Second, readers are encouraged to imagine the character’s surprise, which helps them get closer to the character.

If you find that your dialogue needs explanation, then frankly, something is wrong with your dialogue.

Beginning writers tend to use adverbs to put emotion into their dialogue but, by doing this, they’re actually smuggling in unnecessary explanation. A powerful dialogue conveys emotion through what’s being said rather than how it’s said. If your character is sad, it is your responsibility to show this sadness and to show what there is about your character or his situation that makes him sad.

If you’ve written powerful dialogue, the last thing you want to do is draw attention away from it. Adverbs disrupt the flow, as they jump out at the reader and signal, if only for a second, that there’s a writer hard-at-work behind the scenes.

You may not like this, but it bears repeating. The verb said should be your go-to verb when writing dialogue. Said is an unusual word primarily because we interpret it in a very mechanical way.

In fact, when we see it, we typically gloss over it. It might bother you to use it, but the reader doesn’t even see it. Its unassuming presence allows readers to focus on what your characters are saying rather than how they are saying it.

Become a Student of Conversation

I’ve mentioned this several times before. Conversation isn’t merely an exchange of words. We also use body language to get our message across, so this needs to be captured in your dialogue. Sprinkle action into your dialogue to show intent and emotion in different ways.

A Note of Caution: Using action to make your dialogue more interesting is a useful technique, however be careful not to overuse it as it can also become very distracting for readers.

New writers often fall into the trap of providing too much detail in their dialogue. You want to be as realistic as possible, but you need to strike a balance between realism and purpose. Remember, dialogue should help move the story along, give depth and meaning to characters, and convey information.

If yours doesn’t serve any of these purposes, it has to go.

Read it Aloud

One of the best dialogue tips is to read your work aloud. Reading your dialogue out loud is your secret weapon to identify problem areas. It will throw up any issues relating to pace, punctuation and flow.

When you’re reading out loud, take note of where you stumble, or where you’re pausing unnaturally. Fix this. Take note of accidental rhymes or closely repeated words and edit them.

Listen to what you’re writing and who is saying it. Do the words match the character? If your character is an uneducated buffoon, make sure he sounds like it. If he’s a professor, make sure he sounds smart.

Rest assured, remember these tips and you’ll soon see improvements in your writing that will impress your readers.

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Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

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You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

4 Responses to “Dialogue”

  1. Bob Wonnacott Says:

    Thank you for your blog posting. It has words of wisdom that can help others; myself included.I’m going to do some editing today and will keep your tips in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. T Says:

    “I’m very pleased to say ‘Well Done’ I just said to you most happily”

    Liked by 1 person

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