Friday, October 2, 2015

It's All About the Dialogue - 10 Tips for Writing Realistic Dialogue


I love writing dialogue. Done well, dialogue brings a scene alive, builds characters, and advances the plot. But just as great dialogue can pull a reader into a story, bad dialogue can snap a reader out of the scene and have them putting the book down. Below are ten tips to help you create realistic dialogue no matter what genre you write.
  1. Writing realistic dialogue starts with knowing your characters and their world. Sex, age, social status, location and genre have to be considered. Once you know who your characters are, you’re ready to begin.
  2. I like to start by eavesdropping on conversations around me, but I don’t just listen to what’s being said and neither should you. Pay attention to the cadence of the speaker’s voice, word choice, facial expressions, and gestures. Study these same things when you watch your favorite TV series and movies. Stop to think about what you like and dislike about the dialogue in the books you read.
  3. Keep sentences short and succinct. People talk in clipped sentences. Reflect this in your writing.
  4. Break up dialogue with action that helps to convey emotion, mood, or grounds the reader in the scene.  This is where paying attention to people’s actions comes in handy.
  5. Avoid info dumps. Dialogue that’s used as a tool to provide long blocks of back story or exposition doesn’t ring true. It comes across as forced or as the writer stepping in to provide important detail that should have been woven into the story in other ways.
  6. Only include what is important to the story. Take out boring and unnecessary dialogue.
  7. Keep tags simple. Said is overlooked, whereas words such as demanded and interjected can pull a reader out of the action. Good dialogue will convey these things.
  8. Avoid slang and too much swearing. These can date your book or alienate readers.
  9. Keep your dialogue clean. Avoid words like um, uh and oh. While realistic, it reads over the top and doesn’t look well on the page.
  10. And last but definitely not least, read your dialogue out loud. The places you stumble are the places you need to revise.
There you have it, ten tips for writing realistic dialogue. If you have any you'd like to add, please leave them in the comments.

12 comments:

  1. That last one is the clincher. Then you'll know if your dialogue is stilted and unreal.
    I only have two swear words I use, but they are both very universal and been around forever. And they are mild.

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    1. The last one really helps to keep dialogue sounding realistic. And I don't swear much in my novels, but if my characters do what they say is also mild and universal. :)

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  2. I second all your points, Cherie. I'll add that it helps if you base your characters on real people you know, because they are already three-dimensional...

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    1. That's a great tip. Thanks for sharing it!

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  3. I love reading crisp dialogues and clipped sentences.

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  4. Good tips, especially 3 and 4! I get turned off by long paragraphs--people don't talk that way.

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    1. I'm not a fan of long drawn out dialogue myself.

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