Hello everyone in the blogosphere,
In Today’s post and podcast episode, I give seven tips for using dialogue to enhance your character and plot development in your story.
Listen to my podcast at the following link for a breakdown of each of the key points discussed here:
Why is dialogue important in the development of your story?
Dialogue gives each character his or her own voice. Readers can see the exchange between characters through their dialogue. If you write boring dialogue, your readers will put the book down.
Not only can dialogue help you develop your characters and their interactions with one another, but it can move the plot forward in ways that the story’s narrative cannot.
Remember the advice that many authors give: “show don’t tell”? Dialogue is a great way to show emotion rather than telling you how the character feels.
Writing dialogue: 7 examples of dialogues that work
Tip Number 1:
Avoid Info dumps.
The first thing we want to do when writing dialogue, is to avoid the info dump. An info dump is basically a way of stating what the characters already know.
How to avoid the info dump.
There are four ways you can rewrite the info dump scene to make it more interesting.
1. Turn your info dump into a conflict between two characters.
2. Rewrite your info dump in a way that shows your characters comparing the facts.
3. Make one of your characters oblivious to the confrontation.
4. Rewrite the scene as narration to move your story forward.
Your Words are Dead to Me: Infodumps through Dialogue
Finessing the Info Dump
Tip Number 2:
Subtext is the hidden theme within a conversation or a piece of narrative writing. Subtext is often used to signify a stressful situation in a character’s life. Your protagonist and her friend won’t necessarily say anything about the situation in their conversation. However, the hidden meaning is implied in the tone of the dialogue.
There are two ways you can Make Subtext Work
1. Build up to the revelation in your story’s plot
2. Reveal your Main Character’s emotions and preoccupations without making mention of the situation in your character conversations.
9 steps to writing dialogue with rich subtext
Tip Number 3:
Use Conflict to Develop Your Plot and Characters.
Adding conflict in your dialogue heightens tension and suspense in your story. Dialogue not only shows conflict between two characters, it also shows your readers how your protagonist reacts under pressure. However, the conflict is more complex than a simple argument.
Use dialogue to show conflicting character goals in the following four ways:
1. Conflicting dialogue deepens characterization
2. The dialogue shows the underlying cause of the conflict between your characters
3. Using conflict in your dialogue pushes your story toward a new event.
4. The action you use in conjunction with your dialogue, deepen the conflict. These actions can include, physical gestures or facial expressions that show, rather than tell the reader what emotions a given character feels during this conflict.
No matter what genre you write in, the following principals apply for adding conflict in your dialogue:
1. Use conflict to illustrate your characters’ personalities.
2. Use contradiction in your dialogue to show the differences in what your characters want, their values and goals, and how they conflict with each other.
3. Use conflict in your dialogue to move your story forward and heighten the steaks.
4. Deepen the conflict in your character conversations with gestures and expressions to show emotion.
5 Types of Dialogue Your Novel Needs
Writing Argument Scenes with Rayne Hall
Tip Number 4:
Use Dialogue to create character voice
It doesn’t matter whether your dialogue is full of conflict, or consists of a quiet conversation between a group of characters in a small setting, character voice is an important part of your story. The way your characters express themselves shows the reader each character’s unique traits. A Character’s voice may reveal the following:
1. His personality
2. His mood or mental state
4. The differences between him and the other characters in your story.
7 dialogue rules for writing fantastic conversations
Tip Number 5:
Be careful when using accents and dialects.
There are a couple of important details to remember when using dialects and accents in your dialogue. Accents are tied to geography, so if you have a character with an accent different than those from the location of your story’s setting, then you need to have a viable explanation for this accent difference. Another problem writers face when using dialects is that using different accents in your character’s speech patterns can often be seen as stereotypical. This means that accents are often used to reduce your characters as tokens of a specific culture.
How can you avoid these pitfalls? You can give your characters distinct accents by researching the dialect and using the proper grammar and dialect in the way people from different countries and cultures actually use to make your characters’ accents and dialects more realistic, instead of adding letters and other caricatures that cause stereotypes in your story. When in doubt, hire a sensitivity reader to beta read your manuscript. A sensitivity reader can help you make the necessary edits to your dialogue to make it sound more realistic.
Writing Accents and Dialects: How to add character without offending
How to write accents and dialects: 6 tips
Tip Number 6:
Pace your dialogue to fit the pacing of your story.
Dialogue is much easier to read than long drawn out paragraphs or pages of solid narration. However, there are a few points to remember:
1. Dialogue isn’t an exact replica of day to day speech; therefore, unnecessary fluff can slow your story down.
2. For action scenes, quick bursts of speech, and having characters interrupt each other is better than long rambling monologues.
3. Cut out as many dialogue tags, such as “he said, she said” sentences at the end of what each character says. These tags slow the dialogue down. If you must use dialogue tags, use them sparingly at the beginning of conversations to know which character is speaking first, and in an exchange, when a third character walks into the conversation. If you can at all, use actions or gestures instead of dialogue tags. I also suggest that you refrain from using adverbs in your dialogue, because your readers can sense the character’s emotion, by not only what he says, but the subtext as well.
4. Use line breaks to put each person’s dialogue in a separate paragraph. Make sure your dialogue stays focused on the issue at hand, and allow your characters to interrupt each other once in a while. This shows urgency or the emotional tension between the characters.
Pacing Dialogue and Actions Scenes – Your Story at Your Speed
How to write fiction: DBC Pierre on convincing dialogue
Tip Number 7:
Anchor your dialogue with your story’s setting and narration.
Blending Dialogue with setting and narration makes your character conversations realistic, verses conversations that come from somewhere out in the void.
Setting is an important factor when creating dialogue for two reasons:
1. The setting may put constraints on what can be said.
2. Setting alters the way characters interact with each other.
How to Balance Action, Narrative and Dialogue in Your Novel
How to write dialogue that hooks readers: 10 tips
Until next time, happy writing.