Writing Great Dialogue

Today, we talk about dialogue. What’s there to talk about? (Sorry, a bit of a bad pun, there.) But here’s the thing, your characters will inevitably converse. You can write beautiful, descriptive prose until the cows come home but what happens if you’re not adept at writing dialogue?

Your characters need to sound real and to help you understand what I mean, I will focus on my own method for writing realistic dialogue.

My number one rule is: don’t give your characters a filter. If the scene and situation is appropriate, I’ll even let an expletive or two pass. I don’t condone riddling the entire book with swear words but one or two here or there, is simply realistic, and that’s what we want; realism.

When writing dialogue, I imagine that I’m in the room with my characters and I’m directing them just as a movie director would do. Is their dialogue engaging? Or stilted? Do their words flow unnaturally? Did you forget to add the bits of real life in between? No one talks in paragraphs without interruption. For example: during a heated argument, the phone may still ring or the boiling water on the stove might distract your character. A boom of thunder or a power outage might take place. Don’t forget the things that will make the scene seem entirely real.

You have to think, as well, if you are putting the right words in your character’s mouth. Are the words reflective of their personality? Does the stern, bespectacled history professor say “Bae”? I sure hope not.

Allow your characters to be human. Consider the following:

“I know I love you, like I know that the sun will shine every morning.”

I’m not sure who talks like that except maybe someone from a different century. But let’s stick to modern times and consider this instead:

“I love you, dammit!”
“Because…when I think of living my life without you, I want to cry.”

Okay….better….real, at least.

Finally, above all else, do not be boring. Boring conversation will put your reader to sleep and worse, possibly even cause them to lose interest in the entire story. I read a mystery, once. The action and story line were great. What wasn’t great was when the rough and tough detective fell in love with the victim. Although the point was to convey the passion between them, his profession of love was more like the verbiage of a spelling bee contestant. He recited words but lacked emotion. Remember what I stated above about the action in between words? He dd not move. He just stood there. He did not sweep her in his arms. She, in turn, did not jump freely into his. (Gee, I wonder why.)

To sum it up, give your characters a voice that will be hard for the reader to forget. Dialogue is every bit as important as the rest of the book. Passion is key. Realism, too. Your characters will want to relate to what’s being said. (Or at the very least, they will wish sexy, protagonist was speaking directly to them.) As the reader, if you feel like you’re eavesdropping on something juicy and wonderful, then the Author did a great job. That’s all there is to it….although, I don’t recommend using “Bae”….ever.

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