A small spot for me to publish random thoughts that might help other writers find that tiny voice echoing feebly inside their heads.
Saturday, March 02, 2013
Writing Good Dialog
of the genre, there comes a time when characters have to talk. For
some authors this is a challenge. How do you make the characters
sound different? Where do you put the actions? Does it sound real?
What would this character say? How would the other respond?
is important to a story. Making it sound realistic isn’t easy. One
thing I do that helps me is trying to think like the characters.
There is an easy exercise for this which I’ll go into at the end of
keep it simple. Don’t try to go all Shakespeare and make flowery
speeches or say something relevant – unless that’s what the
character is trying to do. Here again, character centered.
sure the dialog advances the story. Don’t just throw in some witty
repartee for the sake of having them say something cute or funny.
That’s for cheesy action flicks. If the characters would use this
time for that, fine. Otherwise, leave it out.
the passages short. Again, we aren’t doing Shakespearean
soliloquies. There are other ways to express a character’s
thoughts. Use his actions or her facial expressions to express what
they are thinking. A well placed raised eyebrow can be quite
writers have trouble with simultaneous action and dialog. Juggling
this can get tricky. Rule of thumb, at least as far as I’m
concerned, is keep relevant segments together. Don’t split the
sentence unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. Put actions before or
after the dialog, but keep these passages short. Longer, more
detailed action needs to be in its own paragraph. When the characters
are talking, that’s the focus. They wouldn’t be talking if they
didn’t have something important to say. Let the dialog stand out on
the page, dominating it.
a few simple guidelines can take the sting out of dialog. To help get
into the character’s head, try asking yourself the following
is the character’s age?
is the gender? Men & women don’t think alike nor do they speak
is his/ her occupation? Is there a level of technical language he/
she would understand or not?
is his/ her education level? A person who is widely read has a
better vocabulary than someone who never finished school.
or ethnicity – is it important to his/ her characterization? A
foreigner in a strange land will not communicate the same way as a
he/ she speak the same language? It’s very important to have this
in mind before you start. If a character has minimal French, having
him speak fluently in that language wouldn’t ring true.
health. A weak man will speak differently from a strong one.
of the situation. A character will not stop and give a long speech
about how important this mission is if he’s being attacked by
rabid wildebeests. Pacing is a must in dialog.
to the situation. Would he actually say something that incredibly
stupid when in the throes of passion? Would she have enough where
with all to bellow that when under attack?
read the dialog aloud. If it flows with the descriptions, you’ve
done it well. If it doesn’t, look at it again and see what can be
above are my opinions and techniques for writing good dialog. Do you
have any tips for others? Do you have trouble with dialog and would
like other techniques? I am always interested in learning new ways to
conquer a problem. Please post your tips and problems below.
For more of Dellani's books, check out
Indian Summer,Lone Wolf and The Ninja Tattoo on
Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.