Dialogue forms a huge part of most stories. It helps to shape a story. It is through the balance of dialogue and narration that the story reveals itself to the readers and characters.
The dialogue in your writing has to move the story forward; it has to have a storytelling purpose. It is a great tool for the writer to have in his/her creative toolkit. You can describe a character in a single sentence through dialogue. The way they speak, what words they use, how often they speak, all help in making your character real to the reader. You can use dialogue to reveal key plot information, to show how the different characters feel about each other, and to convey their motivations.
The reader doesn’t want to read true-to-life dialogue with all the boring bits, the how are yous, and what the weather is like today. Dialogue in a story needs to be efficient and to the point. If it’s not moving the story on, cut it! William Ryan, in his book Guide to How to Write, says ‘Writing dialogue is often a balancing act. Your dialogue needs to sound right to the ear but you also want it to be focused on the purpose of the conversation.’
I have put together a list of articles and podcasts that I think will be useful:
Great dialogue can transform your characters into truly believable people. This article gives you a comprehensive guide to writing natural dialogue in 11 steps, including entering the conversation late, using simple dialogue tags, bounce back and forth, and making each character distinct.
Tricks, tools, and plenty of examples are used in this great article to demonstrate how to write dialogue. It emphasises the importance of keeping speeches short, adding intrigue, and having interruptions in dialogue.
This masterclass is all about how to format dialogue in a story. It gives the writer 9 formatting rules to help structure your dialogue. This is an essential article for every writer to read.
Writing good dialogue isn’t about replicating a real-life conversation. It’s about giving an impression of it. This article tells us that good dialogue is like a cleaned-up version of a real conversation. The role of the writer is to select what’s important and then distil it down to its very essence. Nine rules are given for the writer to follow to help achieve this.
This excellent blog talks about using accents/ dialects in your writing. Writing accents is difficult; so is reading them. Most experienced authors and editors will therefore caution against this approach. Louise gives some great advice as to what to bear in mind if you are considering writing using accents.
Stories need dialogue but the complexity of crafting quality dialogue can be off-putting. This blog/ podcast breaks down writing dialogue into nineteen steps, beginning with ten tips for crafting richer, more nuanced conversations.
In this Creative Writer’s Toolbelt podcast, the writer is given practical, accessible advice on using dialogue in writing to develop character, build tension, and progress the plot of your story.
This podcast is in conversation with James Scott Bell, an award-winning author of thriller novels, zombie legal’s, and historical romance. He talks about his book How to Write Dazzling Dialogue. He warns about being aware of creating stereotypes in characters, overuse of names, and weaving action into dialogue.
Reading your dialogue aloud will give you an idea if it works or not. It will give you a good sense of the pace, tone, and tenor. Share it with other writers and readers, ask them does it work for them. And, of course, practice makes perfect. I hope this week’s column has been helpful for you. If there are any particular writing topics you want me to cover, please get in touch.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan