Writing dialogue is one of the most important skills that writers need to master. Dialogue is more than just making characters talk. Dialogue is a powerful tool that can enhance your story and help move it forward. Dialogue can help enhance tension between characters and help set the mood.
When writing dialogue, it should do the following:
- Dialogue should move the story forward, and each dialogue exchange should move the reader closer to the climax or conclusion of the story
- The dialogue should have relevant information about characters and setting, and effective dialogue helps reveal the character and what they are feeling during the story
- Dialogue should help the reader understand the relationship between characters
The briefer the dialogue, the better the story will be, and the better it will flow. Lengthy dialogue-especially when it goes page after page-can bore the reader. The reason brief dialogue works is that it helps bring the writer in piece by piece as the story goes along as opposed to blocks of dialogue that serve to give the whole plot away but ends up slowing the pace of the story and risking losing the reader’s interest.
Small talk should also be avoided at all times as it does not serve the plot or its characters. There is such a thing as making dialogue “too real” by having characters talk about something that don’t serve the plot. Instead, describe characters’ mannerisms as they talk, like tapping on a wall or even nodding nervously while riding an elevator, for example.
Here’s an example of dialogue not to do and dialogue that helps best serve a plot without spelling everything out.
“Hi, how are you!”
“I’m okay, how are you?”
“So you decided to show your face around here after what you did last time, huh?”
“I’m here to make amends. You don’t have to forgive me. You just have to let me do what is right.”
Another thing to avoid is “As you know” dialogue. Not only do people not say that in real life but it also does not make any sense: why would a character repeat what the characters already know? This practice is also known as “info dumping” and it should be avoided at all costs. Info dumping is clumsy and gives the whole plot away, while dialogue relevant to the plot is given in pieces and in subtle ways to convey to the readers what is going on. Keep the reader in suspense of what is going on and don’t give everything away when writing dialogue because giving clues of the plot in dialogue is what will keep readers in your story.
Crafting good dialogue takes a lot of practice. Observe how people talk to each other in day-to-day life. Write and re-write the dialogue. Most importantly, consider how the dialogue helps move the plot forward and serve its characters.
Additional Writing Resources: