The Trick to Writing Interesting Dialogue

| Posted in Writing.

Dialogue testCreative writing is very tricky; a lot of techniques are needed to make stories exciting. The writer has to use these techniques to keep the reader hooked from beginning to end. One of the many creative writing techniques that writers can use is dialogue. Dialogue is an important part of writing fiction, but it can prove quite challenging. Get it wrong and your otherwise engaging characters could labour under dreary, boring and awkward conversation. The aim of dialogue is to convey emotion between two characters, to show how characters relate to each other and to verbalise what characters may be thinking.

Any writer will tell you that part of writing a good story is being able to recognise when a piece of the story should not be there. So, as much as dialogue has the potential to add some excitement to your story, don’t be afraid to delete it if it does not fit. The addition or subtraction of a piece of dialogue will depend on the kind of story that you are writing and the characters involved. Here are three tips to help you write dialogue that actually works.

1) The curse of lengthy dialogue

Do not make your dialogue too long. Even in our day-to-day lives, when one person talks forever, we tend to get bored and even irritated. Unless it is an extremely important part of the story and it cannot be told another way, try to keep your dialogue to at least two or three lines per character. One character talking non-stop will have your readers skipping page after page.

To minimise the length of the dialogue delete words that are unnecessary. The guilty party in this regard is almost always the adverbs. Because writers always want to make sure that their readers get the emotion that they are conveying, they add unnecessary adverbs. Adverbs tend to be redundant and should be removed if they do not serve their intended purpose. Break up the dialogue into snippets with some action in between, or summarise parts of the dialogue to minimise the speech.

2) Don’t confuse readers

If your dialogue just has quotations marks flying everywhere and words going back and forth, your reader will get confused. Always make sure that it is clear who is talking. There are multiple ways of doing this, and whichever way you choose, make sure it sticks to the tone and rhythm of the story.

3) Play around with it

The spelling in a dialogue does not have to be hundred per cent correct. A good example of this is in Harry Potter, where the character of Hagrid is often seen saying things like, “Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh”, or, “Yeah, but I was meanin’ anythin’ unusual a bit nearer home”.  This conveys the personality of the character and adds a little humour to the story.

Indirect dialogue can also be used. This is where the dialogue is internal within one character. This can sometimes be more powerful than using direct quotes. In order to not confuse the reader, quotations should not be used when using indirect dialogue, but rather italics should be used.

The only way to master the skill of dialogue writing is to practice. Make a dialogue diary where you have each of the most important characters talking. This will not only help you identify the voice of each character, but also might help you add creative elements to the story.


Written by Zimasa Mpemnyama

Image credit: Andrew Butitta (aperture_lag), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr


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