Do you struggle to write engaging, appropriate dialogue? My guest today, Jessica Millis, has six tips to manage your most talkative characters and keep your dialogue relevant. Over to you, Jessica.
Unlike what most people would like to think, writing dialogue in fiction is much harder compared to having a dialogue in real life. Whenever your dialogue in fiction sounds more or less like a conversation you’re likely to hear in real life, then it should be an indication that something is wrong somewhere.
The way individuals have conversations in real life is totally different from how you’d have it written in a novel. When writing dialogue, you need not replicate a real life conversation because it can be impossible. You need to understand that writing dialogue is all about giving people an impression of what really a conversation is and improving on the same.
As a writer, you need to know that your role in writing dialogue is to try as much as possible to select the most important elements in a conversation and distill it further to its very essence. If you are thinking of how best you can manage your character’s dialogues, you need to consider the following:
A dialogue should be written as a conflict
For dialogue to fit its description, it should be more than just two people chatting about nothing without some form of disagreement. Having a pleasant conversation in real life is perfect but it might not work on script. Since your target audience will be reading your content, you need to keep it interesting and exciting so that your readers do not doze off while reading.
It is indeed quite easy to add the excitement. All you have to do is to just give your characters two conflicting goals. Create them in such a way that one of them wants one thing and the other something else. It is a must that the dialogue should end up with a shouting argument; give it enough tension to keep the readers hooked. With written dialogue, the key is add a bit of conflict to make it interesting.
Give your dialogue a purpose
This should not be a problem. In fact, it is easier to do it. Regardless of how juicy your conflict looks, it will not make sense if the dialogue fails to fulfill the storyline’s purpose. For the dialogue to be meaningful, it must serve at least one of these purposes:
- Let your dialogue move the story’s plot forward.
- Deepen a reader’s understanding of the characters.
- Provide the readers with vital information.
If you just add dialogue anywhere and anyhow without a purpose, you may end up corrupting your entire storyline.
Related post: How Can Your Characters Make Others Believe Them?
Jack Woodford once quoted that, “Characterization is an accident that flows out of action and dialogue.” Anyone with intentions of writing effective dialogue should adhere to this concept as it can do them a lot of good. Characterization just as defined should be a process where the writer conveys information relating to the characters in a narrative work or through our daily conversation. Your dialogue should be somehow linked with an individual’s character. You can only create believable and memorable characters if you can be able to link their internal thoughts, external dialogue and the way they react to events together.
Differentiate a dialogue from a conversation
Even though there are some similarities between a conversation in real life and dialogue written in a novel, the two need to be differentiated. A conversation in real life normally involves clipped sentences and at times the conversations are normally accompanied with non-verbal cues. Dialogue in a novel should never be taken as a reflection of real life conversation because a novel’s dialogue should meet the following goals:
- Give information about the plot/characters.
- Help to develop characters and build your character’s depth.
Related post: What Are Your Characters Trying to Say?
Know how to effectively use your dialogue tags
Dialogue would not make any sense if you fail to make the most of dialogue tags. These are basically the word you place before or after the dialogue. They include words such as: they said, he asked, I gave a response, among others. Know how to vary these dialogue tags so that you do not bore the readers. In addition to this, you also need to ensure that your dialogue is flowing well and the lengths of your lines vary greatly.
Make your dialogues concise
Try to make your dialogue as short as possible. Why write a ten word sentence when a five word sentence can still pass the message? If you can still use a three word for the same, all the better. In the real world, this might be impossible considering the fact that some people always want to share a lot. Concise dialogue appeals to the reader and makes them to want to read more. To achieve this, you may want to consider doing the following:
- Get rid of any unnecessary chit-chat or any other social niceties.
- Do not beat yourself for not writing complete, grammatically correct sentences.
With these tips, you should be able to manage most of your talkative characters and write dialogue that is in line with your storyline and makes sense.