I personally love to write dialogue. I know many hate it, and writing good dialogue that engages the reader, that doesn't sound too much like exposition, but still sounds natural within the confines of literature takes practice. Here are some dialogue tips that may be useful to those struggling with it as our monthly goal looms into view and we face the daunting task of editing (or completing a draft that runs over 50k)
1. Use quotation marks
One of the absolute dialogue writing rules is using quotation marks. This is a must. If you think that you can get away without using those pesky little marks, try it. Try writing a story without using quotation marks then go back and read it to yourself. Quotation marks indicate what’s spoken and what’s not. It’s used to guide the reader in the story.
2. Each speaker gets their own paragraph
Each speaker needs to be given their own paragraph. This is another one of those dialogue writing rules that has to be followed to the letter. Even if it’s only one line and they are talking about the same subject, they need to be separated. This allows the reader to read along and know when one character is finished and the other is responding without the writing having to refer to them as he said, she said, constantly.
3. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking.
Give life to the phrases not only by indicating who is speaking it but also by describing the character’s reaction or actions while speaking the words. This is one of those dialogue writing rules that a good writer will never ignore.
4. Vary speech tag use
Proper usage of the speech tag is one of those important dialogue writing rules. Some people tend to always use them at the end of sentences repetitively. This gets boring after a while. A good writer will vary the use of the speech tags by placing them in different parts of the sentence. Some sentences can start off with a speech tag while still others can break in the middle with a speech tag. The use of a speech tag can be eliminated altogether when a sentence is used identifying the actions of the speaker and leading up to their comment.
Many fledgling writers feel that they are overusing the word “said” as they add the speech tags. They feel that they need to vary by adding adverbs but in reality this only creates more problems. A good writer will learn use one of the dialogue writing rules to convey those adverbs in the context of the actual dialogue eliminating the need for stating the adverbs. By learning how to do this, one is truly becoming a master storyteller.
5. Use dialogue with a purpose
Don’t put in dialogue just for the sake of having your characters talk. They need to have a reason to speak. Good dialogue writing rules are that dialogue is used to move the plot along and reveal the characters. It needs to be a substitute for narration. Never use dialogue and narration to tell the reader the same thing. It should also reveal the character’s intention in the story and also set the tone. By asking yourself if your dialogue serves one of those purposes and having the answer come back as “yes”, then you’ll know that you are using dialogue correctly.
6. Written dialogue should sound real
Always keep in mind that good written dialogue should mimic actual speech that one hears around them. This means not following perfect grammatical wordings. Spend some time listening to the people around you talk and you’ll find that most of them speak in some kind of slang. “Um” and “like” are two words that one commonly hears in a spoken dialogue. Using them in dialogue will lend an air of reality to them. Although this isn’t grammatically correct, it’s one of those good dialogue writing rules to follow