Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Day Eight: Writing memorable dialogue #BYBin30

Every fiction novel needs to have well written dialogue. If your dialogue is stilted or forced, it won't help move your story along, and it can even turn away your readers.

Some things to avoid doing when writing dialogue:

1. Telling instead of showing. The dialogue will have a part in your story, but it shouldn't be the whole story. Your characters should also show the message they are imparting through body language and more subtle means.

2. Providing too much information at once. Using dialogue for large chunks of exposition sounds forced. Don't try to skip over a crucial element of the story by having a character explain it all. That's lazy writing and will not engage your reader.

3. Don't use superfluous adverbs. For example, '"I won't do it," Jessica shouted angrily.' Look for those words ending in "-ly" and get rid of them.

4. Using too many dialogue tags. The only tags you should ever need to use are "said," "asked" and maybe, once in a while, "answered" or "replied." Many children are taught to use as many different dialogue tags as they can think up, but this is because it helps them to learn vocabulary; it's not the correct way to write dialogue in a story.

5. Using your characters names too often during dialogue. In most instances, you should have already made it clear who is speaking. And in realistic speech, most of the time people don't say each other's names while speaking to them. Your characters do not need to address each other by name, unless, for example, there is a specific incidence where someone is giving individual directions to a group of people.

Some things that are okay to do while writing dialogue:

1. Use silence instead of words. Sometimes what your character is not saying is as powerful and meaningful as what they are saying. For example, if one character asks another character who is at fault for some mistake that has occurred, the character's silence instead of answering speaks volumes.

2. Use different speech patterns for different characters. A teenager living on the streets is going to sound different from an elderly grandmother enjoying a cup of tea while sitting on her porch. However, you need to be careful not to over-do the differences. Try not to have every character sound like you. Re-read what you've written, and if the speech patterns sound forced or unnatural for your character, then you know you need to rewrite it.

3. Use actions of your characters to punctuate their dialogue. This is a way to bring the scene into the dialogue and also a way to show the story rather than tell the story. For example, if your character is pacing, this shows some tension or worry behind their words, which might not be as easily conveyed through words alone.

4. Skip some of the more mundane dialogue. You can skip your characters saying "hello" and "goodbye" to everyone in the room. A neat trick for this is to skip the beginning of the conversation and the very end and just write the meat of the dialogue, the middle.

5. Break up the dialogue. Large chunks of dialogue can be too wordy and tend to lack some of the emotion that can be shown through your characters actions. A great way to show emotion in dialogue is for your character to have stumbles and restarts, maybe even some fumbling of his or her words.

An important step to take when writing dialogue:

Read the dialogue you have written out loud. This is the easiest way to see where the dialogue is not working.


This week, the prize that will be drawn from the signed-up Blog Your Book in 30 Days members who are actively participating is a Novel Under Construction mug. The drawing will be done by a random number generator on April 14th at noon and will be announced at the end of that day's blog post.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I have very stilted dialogue and I am far too fond of LY words. I also have to get out of my characters heads and show what their thoughts are not omnipotently say what they are


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