Writing Tip 31: Writing Dialogue

Dialogue is the interaction between two or more people. A monologue is a conversation between one person.

The prefixes di= 2 and mono = 1

If you’re writing in first person most dialogues will be a monologue where the major character (MC) will be narrating what they encounter as it is presented to them. Some dialogue is necessary so that readers can get feel of what type of person the MC is like. It is also necessary because we use communication to convey our thoughts, opinion, ideas, and information across. It also builds character, analyzes their personalities, and creates connections.

How to create effective dialogue

1. You must have a good grasp of your characters. You must have already created a character profile so that your interactions with the character expresses what kind of personality they would convey when they’re interacting with others. If you don’t know your characters completely it will be difficult to create dialogue for them. They must feel like real people to you so that you can write dialogue for them.

2. Give your dialogue purpose. The dialogue must tell readers a new piece of information, uncover a secret, or explanatory. Dialogue should be relevant to the plot. It should also move the story along. If there’s no dialogue in a story then it would feel like an encyclopedia or a retelling of a story without real emotions or character building. Readers won’t relate or sympathize with your characters.

3. Avoid meaningless conversation. The dialogue in your story must be meaningful. For example, having two characters talk about the weather or what they ate or did is boring and no one wants to read about that. Instead, you can write that character A and character B met at a coffee shop and exchanged pleasantries and move to the dialogue that is relevant to the story. However, sometimes meaningless dialogue is necessary to convey a tone of voice. For example, if character A doesn’t like character B and they cross paths in a coffee shop then their interaction will convey how character A response to character B is either rude, passive-aggressive, uninterested or whatever mood you want to emit.

4. Give your character a distinctive voice. This again comes from writing a character profile and knowing the ins-and-outs of your character beforehand. For example, in my book, I have a character that uses honey in an endearment tone and every time she’s in the chapter readers can tell that who she is without reading the dialogue tags.

Dialogue tags are using character A said. For example, “Leave me alone,” Character A said. (Just in case you didn’t know what dialogue tags where)

Therefore, you must make sure that your characters speech reflects the way they are in your story. If you have an arrogant character then give that character arrogant characteristics and express that in their dialogue when they interact with others. In the real world we don’t talk like robots nor do we all sound alike so give your character personality in their dialogue.

5. Keep your dialogue age, time, and setting appropriate. If your story involves children and they speak eloquently and use terminology that children don’t use, then readers would be confused if these characters are in fact children and they will not seem believable to readers.

In the same token if your dialogue involves words like bad to the bone, bogus, gnarly, preppy and I could go on then your story will sound outdated to readers unless if that’s the era you’re trying to convey. Also if you’re writing a fight scene and the characters are not expressing how the punches hurt and instead are talking through every punch like they’re having leisure conversation, then this highly unbelievable.

6. Make sure the dialogue flows. For the purpose of writing and keeping on track your character dialogue must flow, otherwise the story will never move forward and we’ll be stuck reading about the weather or meaningless interactions. However, writing about the weather is not completely meaningless unless the weather plays an important role in your story. For example, Tim and Jane wanted to go hiking but the thunderstorm outside prevented them from going. In this situation inserting a dialogue about the weather would make sense.

Writing dialogue that flows will not confuse readers and it will enhance the entertainment level of your novel. A good idea is to color code dialogue between characters if there are more than three people in the scene to make sure everyone has their part. Then go back and add dialogue tags or a few narratives to explain what emotion is being conveyed.

If you have any other suggestions for dialogue writing please let me know in the comments.

My book The Scarlet Romance is out on Amazon for preorder. You can checkout the first three chapters free here on my website.

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