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Creating believable dialogue in a story is harder than it seems. Sometimes writers will jot down a sentence thinking it’s the best thing they’ve ever written! When they go back to editing later, they stare at it and say, “Who talks like that?” Here are some ways to avoid that awkward sentence structure and strange dialogue between the characters you’ve worked so hard to build.
Create Proper Breaks
In most conversations, people do not talk in monologues. One character shouldn’t drone on for three paragraphs just to wait for the character they’re speaking with to do the same.
When writing, you typically cut out the useless chit-chat. Hi, how are you? I’m well, how are you? We jump right into the conversation. The back and forth should have a natural flow without boring the reader. Give them information relevant to the story and their characters and break it up in a way where it looks like an everyday conversation people have.
If you’re writing characters that are doctors and lawyers, or any other careers that have specific jargon, make sure you know what those words mean. You don’t need to include every medical and legal word you know into every sentence the character says.
If they’re not at work, they may not use jargon as much. If you don’t understand what a word or phrase means, your character isn’t going to sound as intelligent as they should be in their field. Research is important for this. Know what you’re talking about just enough for your characters to be believable!
Have A Chat Before Writing Dialogue
This may not always be possible, but if your character is similar to someone you know in real life, have a chat! Ask that person if you can take notes while you’re talking to them. Understand the words they use, how long are the sentences, if they use cliches and pet names a lot. You already know them pretty well, so you can take their personality and connect that with the words they’re saying.
Know Your Characters
This point aligns well with the previous two. If you don’t know who your characters are, then you won’t know how they speak. A young teen with no life experience is not going to talk with the wisdom of an eighty-five-year-old grandmother. A person with a lively personality, the social butterfly, is not going to be shy and keep their words to themselves. Soft-spoken boys talking to a crush aren’t going to speak long paragraphs while they spill their feelings. Unless that’s what they do when they’re nervous, of course.
Get into the head of your character and ask yourself: would they say this? Would they point out the details in someone’s clothing? Or ask everything about someone’s day? Know their personality and motivations and you’ll be one step closer to crafting the perfect dialogue.
When you’re ready to edit your book, and you want to test out the dialogue, ask a friend to read it aloud with you. Similar to how actors practice their lines, play out the scene and make sure the conversation flows smoothly.
If you’re stumbling to get out a sentence or get winded, maybe you need to cut down some words and rephrase. If it sounds too cliche or awkward to your ear, alter it to sound smoother. This method also has an extra benefits because you get feedback from your friend. Getting a second opinion never hurts when it comes to writing!
Thank you for reading my tips on writing dialogue!
Did you like the tips I shared? Do you have some of your own? Comment below and let’s continue the conversation!
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