Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book in a Month Pt 18: Writing Dialogue

"Hey, there is one subject you haven't talked about yet."
"Which one is th-"
"The one you've been avoiding!"
 "You're right," I whisper, unable to meet the piercing gaze of my accuser.

As you can see from my attempt at dialogue, why I have been avoiding the subject. Nevertheless, dialogue is vitally important to creating a story. I've done a little research, and here is what I've found. 

Dialogue should be used for two things:
1. Revealing more about a character.
2. Moving the plot forward.
Ideally it will do both of these things!

Great dialogue mimics real life conversation but with all of the boring parts taken out. 

Include descriptions:
  • The character's voice.
  • Mannerisms.
  • Nonverbal communication.
  • What the character is doing while they are talking.
  • What is going on in the setting around them.

 Reveal character through dialogue:
  • What does the character's voice sound like, what is their vocabulary?
  • Do they speak in short sentences, are they normally quiet or talkative?
  • Do they use slang? 
  • Are they a stickler for correct grammar?
  • How do they show their emotions?
  • What is their posture?
  • What is their facial expression?
  • How are they responding physically?
  • Do they use their hands to gesture when they talk?

Does each character sound different? Could you tell who spoke the words even if you didn't see the name?

A few more tips:
Include conflict/tension in dialogue as much as possible, or something that will lead up to conflict.
Read books with great dialogue and study them.
Avoid, the "floating heads in space." 
"Recite your dialogue out loud. It sounds different than in your head." - Michael Pierce

Holly Lisle: Dialogue Workshop
Writing World: Punctuating Dialogue
Creative Writing Now: How to Write Dialogue that Works
The Write Blog: The Secrets of Writing Great Dialogue

Wishing on Daisies Progress: Rough Draft is Finished!
Finished Status: 20,139 words
Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 Complete. 
More posts on this to follow! I have been slow to get back with everyone and post awards, but this should start to get better in about a week.

Do you have any tips for dialogue? Your thoughts are most appreciated.
  If you have a post about dialogue I would love to read and share it.


  1. Great word count!
    Thanks for the links. I'll bookmark them ;)

  2. i could write dialogue for pages and pages. i have to make myself cut back.

  3. Dialogue is my easy thing. Setting and description is not.

  4. YAY you finished! That is great news!! ^_^

    And this is a great post--dialogue can do so much to move a story forward, and these are great tips.

  5. Awesome word count! And great tips. Dialogue is one of the things I write too much of. I love witty banter. I usually end up having to cut dialogue out of a manuscript when I'm revising.

  6. Nice tips! Dialogue is one of my favorite parts of storytelling. One of the tips I've picked up over the last few years is to let my dialogue speak for itself more, as I used to tend to plug in lots of unnecessary exposition and description as well. Here's an example:

    "Where have you been?" he says, shifting the cigarette in his hand and taking a deep drag.
    "Nowhere," I say, fiddling with a stray thread on my sweatshirt. It's crimson and faded, and it pulls easily under my fingertips. "Why, have you been waiting?"

    There's nothing really WRONG with that, but do we really need to know he's shifting the cigarette before inhaling? And do we really need to know everything that's going on with my sweatshirt? Descriptions like that are fine if used sparsely, but I used to do it almost every time someone said something. Way too dense, and it took away from the weight of my character's actual words.

    Anyone else get too clunky?

    1. I tend to do the exact opposite. I have floating head syndrome when there is no additional information, just talking heads in space :)

      At least you can trim the fat off of a clunky dialogue :)


  7. Left something on my blog for you! :D


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