If you want to write a book that is impossible to put down, focus on the dialogue.
Powerful dialogue keeps the plot moving, connects your readers to the characters, and makes the book memorable.
Here are our 6 best tips for writing powerful dialogue:
Know Your Characters
When you know your characters inside and out, developing their unique voice in the conversation is much easier. Answering character development questions can help you understand your characters in depth. While you may never write all the details into your story, it will help shape the voice of your characters.
Give Your Dialogue a Purpose
When characters speak, it better be for good reason. If you listen to everyday conversations between people, it can be pretty boring and mundane without any real purpose. You want to make sure when writing however that it has a clear definitive reason for being said.
Remember Dialogue is Not Always Realistic
One of the biggest mistakes writer’s make is adding to many “Ums and Ehs” and other common day expressons into the writing. Dialect is another thing to avoid, as it can be confusing and painful to read. Pleasantries like “Hello” and “How are you?” can bore readers also. You want your dialogue to be fast paced and moving – you want to get straight to the action.
Another thing to remember when keeping dialogue realistic is to limit your use of profanity, slang, and stereotypes. Not only can this alienate readers, it can also make your book seem dated in a couple of years. If you’re in doubt, consider visiting the Urban Dictionary which has definitions and usage for a lot of common slang words.
Boring Dialogue Tags are OK
In school we’re taught to use all kinds of different synonyms for the word “said”. However, studies have shown that readers will treat the word “said” as a period – they will not even notice it in use. If you write words that are longer and complicated it can lead to the reader becoming fatigued.
Stick with words like: asked, said, replied. If it becomes repetitive, stop using them all together and break it up with sentences that use action. Remember you don’t always need to put them in every paragraph, especially if it’s clear who is speaking.
Keep Formatting and Punctuation Simple
Want to turn your readers off fast? Write gigantic paragraphs of dialogue.
Break your dialogue up into short, concise sentences that get straight to the point. A paragraph when writing dialogue should never had more than 2-3 sentences.
Learning 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.
Study, Study, Study and Practice, Practice, Practice
The more you study and practice, the better at writing dialogue you will become.
Read plays and screenplays. Watch movies or television shows. Read books with strong character development through dialogue. Searching through GoodReads for quotes can help you find some interesting book choices. Pay attention to your own personal conversations and the conversations you overhear.
Most importantly, practice writing the conversations between your characters. Use writing prompts and exercises to stretch your creativity.
Dialogue Writing Resources
Below are some of my favorite books on writing dialogue tips – a great addition to your writer’s library.