This is sometimes my favorite part of a story - the words that the characters say to one another. They're usually the most quotable things in a book, and are the heart of your novel (don't worry, narrative is the brain...just as important!).
But a lot of people have some difficulty with making their dialogue perfect. It might sound choppy or boring or lackluster.
If you love YouTube like I do, check out my companion video below! I say the same stuff but you get to make fun of how I slur most of my words together. Fun!
I'm going to go over exactly what's so important about dialogue, how it relates to your characters, some of the technical aspects of writing dialogue and tips for the editing phase!
Why is dialogue even necessary to any story? I think the most important thing it does is it shows the relationships between your characters rather than telling them.
But dialogue also has another very important role: to move the story forward. But, that's what narrative is for, right?
Yes. But if we're studying for a test, we don't just read our book once and say we're done, do we? We watch videos online, we read articles, we make flashcards. All of these pieces work symbiotically to get you a good grade on that test.
Together, dialogue and narrative can make your story shine. Think of it this way: your characters, plot and setting are the path, and your dialogue and narrative are the vehicle. Dialogue is supplementary to narrative in that both move the story forward, so that each important piece of the story is covered.
Your dialogue helps add tension, reveal the personality of your characters, and provides pertinent information. If your dialogue just isn't doing any of these things, then read on!
We've all got one in the family. Just kidding! You should have a ton in your writing because we're all imperfect in our own way. I for instance, can't seem to fold laundry. It's not in my repertoire of zombie apocalypse knowledge, because that's the only knowledge I keep these days! And writing of course...
Relationships matter - Do you talk to your significant other the same way that you talk to your grandmother? I would hope not.
Most of us tend to change our language up slightly depending on who we're talking to. You might give more respect to a professor and speak more formally than you would someone you've known a long time.
This is a part of getting to know your characters really well. How would they interact with one another? Would one take the lead in a conversation while the others followed? Or would one take the lead and butt heads with another?
Some personality types just don't get along well, and you need to welcome the idea of relationships influencing how your characters speak to one another - because let's face it, we all do it! Ergo your characters should do it too.
Give characters a unique voice - If you're a young adult reader like myself, you might have read the Beautiful Creatures series. In it, a character named Link is unlike any of the other characters.
This is best seen through his dialogue. He uses words that no other character would dare to use and delivers them in a unique way.
We all speak differently from one another. We all have favorite words that we like to use or our own form of expletive when we stub our toes.
Make a list of these things for each character so that when you can't think of a response for your character, it gives you inspiration.
People aren't perfect - and neither is their dialog! Have you ever watched a movie and realized that the actors are delivering their lines too quickly? It sounds like they're just waiting for the other person to finish their lines before they dive in to theirs.
Everyone needs time to formulate a response and without it you have a conversation that doesn't sound organic anymore.
Writing dialogue is the same. Give your character time to think every now and then. If they're arguing with another character, have them stammer and slam something in frustration.
Because this happens in real life! No one knows their lines ahead of time, so make sure your characters don't either! Make their dialogue perfectly imperfect, because that's what it means to be human. And unless you have an alien race, you want your characters sounding human, right?
Summaries can be a good thing - Sometimes it's easier to sum up the boring parts of conversation. Are two characters saying hello to each other? Don't put it in dialogue unless there's something else going on there. You would have to force this type of dialogue to be interesting, though, so sometimes it's better to leave it as a narrative.
If you still really want to make it interesting, here's some examples: A meeting between two teenagers who really like each other, both very nervous and maybe one stutters. A greeting between two people who don't speak the same language - there's some obvious difficulties there that would be great to point out via dialog.
How do you know when to put your dialogue into a summary? Is nothing exciting really happening? Is there a back and forth between two characters that would give the reader whiplash? Try to play with putting dialogue into summaries and see how it flows!