Writing Dialogue: 10 Tips That Will Bring Your Characters To Life
Writing effective dialogue is essential for creating engaging and believable characters. Here are some tips to help you write compelling dialogue between characters that will captivate your reader:
Develop distinct voices
Each character should have a unique voice that reflects their personality, background, and motivations. Consider factors such as their age, education, region, and social status. Use specific word choices, sentence structures, and speech patterns to differentiate one character from another.
Show, don’t tell
Dialogue is an excellent opportunity to reveal information about your characters without resorting to direct exposition. Instead of explicitly stating a character’s emotions or background, allow their words and actions to convey the information subtly. For example, instead of saying, “I’m so angry”, a character could say, “You’ve got some nerve!” and slam their fist on the table.
Make it realistic, but not too real
Dialogue should sound authentic, but it shouldn’t be an exact transcription of real-life conversations. Life-like conversations often include pauses, filler words, and repetition that can slow down the pacing of your story. Trim unnecessary elements and focus on the essence of the conversation to keep it engaging and concise.
Dialogue becomes more compelling when an underlying subtext or tension lies beneath the surface. For example, characters may say one thing but mean another. Subtext can add depth and intrigue to your dialogue, allowing readers to interpret the unsaid messages and hidden motivations.
Use dialogue tags effectively
Dialogue tags attribute speech to specific characters, such as “he said” or “she replied.” While these tags are necessary for clarity, using them sparingly is best. Rather than risking overuse, rely on descriptive actions and gestures to identify the speaker. This approach creates a more dynamic and immersive reading experience.
Show conflict and create tension
Conflict drives a story, and dialogue is an excellent tool for showcasing conflicts between characters. Whether it’s a disagreement, a clash of personalities, or competing goals, conflict creates tension and adds excitement to your dialogue. Allow characters to have differing opinions and engage in meaningful debates or arguments.
Use sub-dialogs and interruptions
In genuine conversations, people often interrupt or speak over one another. Introduce interruptions and overlapping dialogue to make your characters’ conversations more natural and life-like. This technique can also add realism and authenticity to the scene.
Avoid excessive exposition
Dialogue should not be used solely as a means of conveying information to the reader. Instead, distribute exposition sparingly throughout the narrative and use dialogue primarily for character development, advancing the plot, or revealing relationships.
Read your dialogue aloud
Reading your dialogue aloud can help you identify unnatural or stilted phrasing. Pay attention to the conversation’s rhythm, flow, and overall sound. If it feels awkward or sounds unnatural when spoken out loud, consider revising it to improve its effectiveness.
Edit and revise
Effective dialogue often requires multiple rounds of editing and revision. Once you have written a dialogue scene, review it critically to ensure it serves its purpose. Trim unnecessary parts, refine character voices, and clarify the message or conflict. Then, continually refine your dialogue until it feels polished and impactful.
By following these tips, you can create dialogue that brings your characters to life, advances the plot, and captivates your readers. Remember to practice, experiment, and seek feedback to keep improving your dialogue-writing skills.