Dialogue rule 1: keep it tight
We were always running ahead. Sorkin's ability to give the audience just the right amount of detail is a huge strength, and something all writers should strive for. It identifies the speaker and clarifies the action. But when writing dialogue, you generally want to keep these elaborate tags to a minimum.
The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. When you raid your thesaurus for fancy dialogue tags, you risk taking readers out of the scene for a brief display of your verbal virtuosity.
Your Guide to Writing Better Dialogue
Speaking of which…. It is included in the same paragraph as the dialogue to indicate that the person acting is also the person speaking. Some of these may change depending on the circumstances of the conversation, especially to whom each person is speaking. But no matter what, there should be an underlying current of personality that identifies each speaker.
Here is a great example of distinct character voices, as demonstrated by Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice :. Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them. Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes. Bennet is clearly quite fluttery and excitable, while her husband is more serious though he does enjoy poking fun at her.
This early exchange establishes their verbal dynamic, which continues throughout the book and is complemented by the distinct voices of the other characters — quick-witted Lizzy, sweet Jane, ditzy Lydia, and so on. Jumping off that, dialogue is an excellent tool to display and develop character relationships overall.
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Remember, good dialogue establishes relationships, and great dialogue adds to them even more. Pretend three of your characters have won the lottery. How does each character reveal the big news to their closest friend? Write out their dialogue with unique word choice, tone, and body language in mind.
This is a great opportunity to work on both voice and character relationships. These qualities might include whether a character:. Think about each of your characters and which of these categories they fall into — it should help you determine how they relate and react to each other in the context of such news.
Again, readers enjoy making inferences based on the clues you provide! The post linked above will give you a thorough overview of this strategy, but in the context of writing dialogue, it basically means that you should imply information rather than outright stating it. For example, say two characters meet in a bar and have the following exchange:. Ted left after a grisly murder case, but now Jake needs his help to solve another.
But for the most part, dialogue should show rather than tell in order to keep readers intrigued, constantly working to figure out what it means. This rule might seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget when one speaker is saying something important — you forget that the other person still needs to respond! Reader fatigue can happen when you use too many long blocks of paragraph text. Dialogue is typically broken into short paragraphs no more than a sentence or two long. However, dialogue has more purpose than merely making your work easier on the eyes!
Learning how to write dialogue is not that difficult, and with practice you will find it can actually be a lot of fun while writing. As a writer, it gives you an opportunity to really let your characters come to life as they join in the conversation.
6 Tips for Writing Believable and Compelling Dialogue | FreelanceWriting
When you know your characters inside and out, developing their unique voice in the conversation is much easier. While you may never write all the details into your story, it will help shape the voice of your characters.
When your characters are well developed, it is easy and natural to know what they might say in any given situation. This makes your job as a writer a lot easier!
It will also help your audience connect with your characters as well. When characters speak, it better be for a good reason. If you listen to everyday conversations between people, it can be pretty boring and mundane without any real purpose.
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You want to make sure when writing that every word your characters say has a clear reason for being said. Dialect is another thing to avoid, as it can be confusing and painful to read. Another thing to remember when keeping dialogue realistic is to limit your use of profanity, slang, and stereotypes. If you write words that are longer and complicated it can lead to the reader becoming fatigued. If it becomes repetitive, stop using them and break it up with sentences that use action. Break your dialogue up into short, concise sentences that get straight to the point.
A paragraph when writing dialogue should never had more than sentences. Learning how to punctuate dialogue takes some practice, but there are all sorts of resources online to help you. Having a desk reference of grammar can be invaluable as a fiction writer. The more you study and practice writing dialogue, the more experience you will have. More experience in writing dialogue will help you naturally fit conversations into your stories. Most importantly, practice writing the conversations between your characters.
Use writing prompts and exercises to stretch your creativity.