Tips on dialogue

Was wondering if anyone had some tips on keeping dialogue to the point but at the same time interesting. Or when to know if you might be using too much? New writer here. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure I can help, I don’t know about my writing, but some of the best ways to write good dialogue is to just get somebody to read the dialogue out with you. Then edit it until it flows right.

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This was a great tip. Thank you. I’ll have to try it

I know on my first draft I turned my dialogue into like, scripts, with highlighted text based on the different characters.
I casted my friends on discord accordingly and we read the story. It was hecka fun.

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I think the main point to remember is that when characters are conversing with each other, make sure there is a point to it. Make sure that their speech adds to the plot, whether it’s to move the story forward or to show more of a character’s personality and motivation. Also make sure that it is something that makes sense given the context.

Best thing to enhance your skills is to read other stories and identify how they use dialogue, focusing on it’s strengths and what speech tells you about the character. Also, agree with the earlier post about turning it into a script and going from there. People don’t naturally talk in paragraphs outloud, so it’s a good way to keep yourself in check and prevent yourself from coming off as wordy. Practice makes perfect, goodluck!

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I agree with the others, and would also suggest using contractions. Not to assume you don’t, but my early dialog was a bit robotic, and I see a lot of other newer writers who also avoid them.

Also, beats and tags were something I wish I studied a bit more when I was first writing. A short action can help balance out the he said/she said. It can also reduce the “telly” tags and/or adverbs, like: She said angrily. If you’d like to show instead of tell, have them slam a cup or fist on the table before the dialog.

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You’ve already gotten some great advice, one additional tip to keep dialogue interesting is to add subtext, that underlying layer that isn’t spoken aloud.

To give a basic example, the girl who is approached by the guy at a bar. The girl is polite but disengaged and keeps making excuses to try to leave the conversation. The subtext is that the girl isn’t interested and wants him to leave or stop talking, but she never says so directly.

Or two characters are atracted to one another, and they have a conversation about something normal and not related to romance, but the way things are phrased and emphasized gives the subtext they’re developing a romantic relationship.

Or two characters are having an argument over something, but the real issue isn’t the the thing that they’re arguing over.

Layers in general are useful, even if you aren’t thinking about subtext. Can this dialogue move the plot foreward and tell us something about this characters personality or motivations?

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All of the above advice is excellent, and I don’t really have much to add myself other than for me personally, it’s a bit of a gut feeling as well, or how I want something portrayed specifically in the story. Sometimes I feel like certain information about characters or the plot is better written about passively, letting the narrator go over “the gist of it” so as not to drag it on too long. Other times, if there’s a few little tidbits of information that might also add to someone’s character as they describe that same thing on a personal level, I usually let the character do it themselves.

It can be pretty tricky to tell when to use conversation and when to gloss over it for the sake of the reader’s interest, but I definitely agree that if it doesn’t add much to the overall plot or characters, and just sounds like a lot of fluff, it’s often better kept short. And if “fluff” is an actual character quirk that one of your characters excels in, that’s when it gets really tricky! haha

One random example I’ll use is something like…
“Person A loves popcorn, and person B doesn’t care for it”

  • Since it’s more of a silly thing that doesn’t REALLY matter to most stories’ overall plots, it might be better to include it briefly just to throw it out there and add a bit of levity. Telling the reader that they went on for 10 minutes arguing about the many pros and cons of popcorn still gets the point across, but it’s a lot less painful to read than 10 minutes worth of actual dialogue about popcorn. If that makes any sense :slight_smile:
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I find that trying to keep the dialogue as natural as possible is best. Try to keep exposition to a minimum, as it makes it feel really forced and fake. Fake characters with plastic conversations doesn’t make a reader really connect to them.

I think it’s best to read your dialogue aloud. See how it sounds when you say it. Is that something you would expect to hear? Is that something that is rational for your character to say? Dialogue should also definitely be consistent with a character’s characteristics (of course) :blush:

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Totally agree with all of this. As well as using contractions, people don’t speak in full grammatically correct sentences. It’s good to try and mirror natural speech patterns in your dialogue too.

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Thanks everyone! This was all super helpful. Appreciate the many responses

There are guide books on kindle that focus on dialog. You can also request stories with great dialog in ‘story requests’ or set up a thread inviting people to share their favorite pieces of dialog.

Really, just make it honest and raw. My book is dialog heavy, but each character has a unique voice within it. It’s okay that it isn’t grammar perfect.

Dialog can always be tweaked in the second draft as you learn more about writing.

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It’s difficult to say, as some books include more dialogue than others, and each chapter contains a different amount of dialogue. I think the main point is to make sure every piece of dialogue serves a purpose to your story (whether it moves the plot forward or shows character development). If a piece of dialogue doesn’t offer anything to the plot or character, then maybe you should cut it. I also tend to read my dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds realistic. I hope this helps!

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The best suggestions I ever got were from watching Youtube videos tbh!

They said something along the lines of: you want the dialogue to be the natural way people speak but when they’re on their best behavior and at their most well-spoken.

So basically, you as the writer aren’t giving the whole scene–just the most important parts. Like cutting on the inevitable ums and uhs that we all use and the conversations that don’t help with the plot/characterization.

Personally, my eyes glaze over dialogue sometimes, so I really appreciate when it’s used sparingly and is to the point.

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