If you writer fiction (or screen plays) you must learn how to write dialogue. Actually, I began writing dialogue with my nonfiction works. How? Three of my nonfiction business books dealt with communication. In those books I had many examples of people talking to one another, either in an interview situation or in dialogue (often conflict) with another person. I found those parts of my books the most fun to write. How people speak, the way they use words and the effect those words have on others fascinate me.
Moving from nonfiction to fiction, I took what I learned to create dialogue. Here are five tips that may help you write realistic dialogue:
In other words, listen to how people talk. Would a character from a low socioeconomic background sound like a university professor? Take note of the expressions your characters use and be sure they reflect who that character is.
How do you reflect silence in your writing? I learned this from Jonathan Kellerman. He simply writes “Silence.” Another tool is to use action in the place of words. The action connotes no spoken words. The character nods or squirms or sits up straighter.
For example you might have a character who always says, “duh,” or “geez.” Other characters do not use that expression.
If a character asks a question that is too intrusive, does the second character simply answer it? Instead, have the second character make an appropriate response either in action or in words. Years ago I learned a very important point about communication: Feelings drive action. If a character feels angry, make sure the words that follow show those feelings. If the feelings and the words are inconsistent, the reader will notice.
It would be an amazing test to remove all tags and simply have enough distinction between characters that the dialogue tells the reader who is talking. Here’s an example:
“What can you tell me about my mother?”
“Young un’s like you don’t get nothing. I ain’t gonna talk about your ma to nobody.”
“But she’d want me to know. She knew how much I loved her.
“Maybe so and maybe not. Go on, now and leave me be.”
The challenge of writing dialogue is a work in progress–something we writers must struggle with all the time. What are some of your tips for writing effective dialogue?
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