Dialogue is a great tool when it comes to fiction writing, but it can also cause a book to fail very easily. People really have to be careful when it comes to writing dialogue as it can easily become weighed down. The dialogue is what helps a story have a lot of interest and flow smoothly. It is also what helps the reader get a better understanding of who the characters truly are by picking up their personality as they talk.
1. Keep it Short
Dialogue should be succinct. If there are too many large paragraphs of dialogue, the writing will start to feel weighed down. Now, there are going to be spots where an author cannot keep the dialogue short, but they should try to break these sections up as much as possible to avoid an info dump in the dialogue. It can be broken up via movement or by characters asking questions or interjecting their own thoughts.
2. Stereotypes, Profanity, and Slang
Keep your dialogue clean. There was a time when writing slang and non-words were extremely popular. For Example: “Uh um… Well. I think ya needs to git goin’ ‘ight now fo I bust a cap in ya ax,” the country bumpkin said.
The problem with this type of dialogue is that it gets very tedious to read very quickly, especially if you are trying to emulate an accent. Instead write, “I think you need to get going before I shoot your ass.” Then, put the country bumpkin thoughts in the character’s minds as they are running away.
3. Don't Overdo Tags
But don’t underdo them either. If you have two characters talking, after about four or six lines of dialogue, you can eliminate some of those tags, but don’t forget to restart them. You don’t know where your reader is going to stop reading your book, and you don’t want them to have to go back five pages to find out who’s talking. When three or more characters are talking, you always need the dialogue tags, unless the dialogue paragraph contains action.
4. Break up Dialogue With Action
One of the worse things an author can do is have a long string of just dialogue between people. The dialogue should be broken up by actions no matter how small their actions might be. It could be as simple as someone changes where they are looking or shifts the way they are sitting or standing. These actions help to make it flow a bit better and helps the readers keep it straight in their head who is talking and when. It also helps set the scene a lot more.
5. Skip the Small Talk
If the dialogue doesn’t move the story forward, delete it. Lots of real-world conversations start with: “Hi, how are you?” “Oh, I’m fine. How are you?” “Oh, I’m good. I’m glad the sun is out today.” In almost all instances, you need to skip the small talk and pleasantries and get to the point.
A better way to write that scene would be:
“Bob, I got the new metrics on the solar flare!” Jill said as she ran down the hall, waving a stack of papers.
“Solar flare!? I thought it was a little bright today,” Bob said.
“And hot. Look at these reports. We may be in trouble,” Jill said as she thrust the papers into Bob’s hands.
Dialogue can make or break a story. When done correctly, it can make your story easier to read and help speed up the action and intensify the suspense. When written incorrectly, it can slow down your story and make it feel tedious to read.
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