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Strong Dialogue

October 7, 2010

I hate reviewing books with stiff and formal dialogue. “Hi.” “How are you?” “I’m fine and you?” Blah Blah Blah. A reader will immediately skip over for the good parts. Dialogue is suppose to advance conflict in the story not be used as filler. Below are a few tips in writing strong dialogue:

1. Ditch the small talk. If it does nothing to add to the story, there’s no need for it to be included.

2. Monologuing never helped the villains. Unless it provides tension or emotion in prose, your story may be better off without it.

3. Read your dialogue out loud. While it’s suppose to add conflict and tension, it should also sound natural. Use conversational words and contractions.

4. Give each of your characters their own speaking style. We don’t all talk in the same manner. Why should your characters? Bring out their individual personalities.

5. While dialogue tags are a must, don’t go overboard. When two people are speaking, the word “said” or it’s equivalent isn’t needed after each piece of dialogue.

Utilizing the above tips will help strengthen your dialogue. For the more advance writers, what piece of advice would you give to an amateur writer concerning dialogue? Is this area your weakness or strength?

Andrea has a full plate for the next two months. Will she have time to master the art of dialogue between NaNoWriMo, book reviews, #10bythen and writing? Follow her progress here.
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3 Comments
  1. October 7, 2010 4:25 am

    Go to a public place and LISTEN to people talk. You’ll get every answer you’ll ever need by observing real life conversations.

  2. October 7, 2010 6:50 am

    Add movement when possible. Facial features. Example: “I’ve been needing to talk to you.” She took a deep breath and then continued. “I think I’m pregnant.” She stirred her coffee waiting for his reaction.

  3. October 7, 2010 8:36 am

    A great piece of advice I’ve heard (and used) is to use interruptions, jumps, breaks and non-sequiturs to establish the relationship between two characters. It can show one person’s unwillingness to talk, or it can be coquettish. Example:

    “Would you like a cigarette, Miss Brown?” Nick offered her the pack.
    “I’ve always found Cincinnati to be such an underrated city, haven’t you, Mr. Teen?”
    He shook one out and put the pack back in his pocket. With his first exhalation of smoke, he said, “It’s no Cleveland, that’s for sure.”

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