A few tips on dialogue

When I edit other people's work, the number one thing that wave red flags at me is second-rate dialogue. 
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

I see a WHOLE LOT of sources on how to improve dialogue or write better dialogue, yadda yadda...
This is just a short list of tips for how to improve your dialogue in little steps. There are more tips than what are included here, but I've got down the ones that stand out (to me) most. 

1. Do not write based off real conversations. There is A LOT of advice out there telling writers to write their dialogue based off of real-life conversation. Really, it's not very great advice. 
Consider: (a real-life conversation)
"Hey, wassup?" 
"Not much. What about you?" 
"Nothing. Just working." 
"Same." 
-moment of silence-
"Anything exciting going on lately?"

Real-life conversations are boring; they go in circles; they repeat things and most of the time it just does not add to anything. Which brings me to the next point.

2. Relevancy. If it is not relevant to the scene in at least some way then it is just extra fluff. Sometimes I feel bad when I'm reading a book and then my eyes reflexively begin to scan pieces of the dialogue. 

3. Don't make 6 y.o. sound like they are 2. By the time kids are six, they know how to talk. They don't really use baby language anymore. They might not know what everything means; they might not understand everything or use big words, but they know how to talk. It's easy for writers (especially new ones) to try and dumb this age group down. Your best bet would probably be to write them normally but just to use easier words. 

4. Writing Laughs. Don't. Laughs or chuckles or giggles are easier written into the narrative than into the dialogue. It reads much easier to have : "Not really," he laughed -than- "Haha!" However, there are circumstances where this is allowable. If you opt for this, work it into the dialogue. Don't let it stand out on it's own. For instance: "Ha! They wouldn't be able to catch him even if he were bound and blinded." It's a lot easier to read than : N/N. laughed. "Haha!" 

5. Don't be afraid to use contractions. Okay, this is the ONE part of "write from real-life conversations" that I understand. People do use contractions. Without them, writing can tend to sound stilted and fake.

6. If writing a Medieval-based Fantasy, avoid 'Ok.' I've read a lot of other people's fantasy writing. Good fantasy too. But one thing that does NOT sell it for me is the word 'Ok.' If you're trying to create a Medieval-based fantasy, 'ok' just really sounds too modern. Try using 'alright' or 'very well' instead.

7. The "You look cute when you're fighting" line. NO. No, no, no, no, no, no, no! I know lot of teen writers will like the blushy idea of this line between a romantically  involved couple who are pro'lly both supposed to be badasses. Lemme tell you something: NO ONE WOULD EVER SAY THIS. NO ONE LOOKS 'cute' WHEN FIGHTING. Battles are ugly and most often serious. Plus, this is kind of a cheap line, a little bit trope-y and just doesn't really work. Maybe try using a direct compliment associated with fighting. Something a little more sincere and less shallow. Like "You have a lot of determination and spirit when you fight. I admire that." Or something.


8. Use dialogue to express. Dialogue expresses thoughts and thoughts express feelings. It creates tension and calm and drama. It helps to push your story and portray your characters in all sorts of lights. Annoying dialogue makes for annoying characters. Hollow dialogue makes for hollow characters. Dialogue is a great asset. All of us writers should take advantage of that. 

Well, that's all for today folks! Keep an eye out because I may be updating this within the week. 

Let's Chat! 
1. Have you ever read a bad piece of writing advice? 
2. Do you struggle with writing dialogue? Or is it one of your strong points?
3. What was the best piece of dialogue advice you've ever heard? 



Comments

  1. 1. Have you ever read a bad piece of writing advice?
    Oh yes, especially from amateur writers.
    2. Do you struggle with writing dialogue? Or is it one of your strong points?
    Sometimes, it depends on the story. in fantasy series it is harder to write dialogue because they need to sound more literate and use older language (even if you are writing peasants). Writing science fiction or writing modern stories. you can use any terms you use today.
    3. What was the best piece of dialogue advice you've ever heard?
    Dialogues from plays written by Shakespear.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I agree. Medieval-based fantasy stories can be a little harder to nail, especially if you want them to really sound authentic. What's really great is when you're reading Shakespeare and then all of a sudden there's a funny line stuck in there. My favorite is "Dost thou think because THOU art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" XD Do you have a favorite?

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  2. This is actually very handy because I am in the process of writing the first part of a mini series and there is going to be a lot of dialogue in it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well good, I'm glad it was helpful to you! Also, will you be posting the mini series on your blog as well?

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