by Guest Columnist
Dialogue can be a tricky thing when it comes to mastering it in your writing. Why do writers struggle when they sit down to write their manuscripts? It’s not because of the infamous blank page. It’s because the struggle comes from mastering dialogue. Without dialogue, your manuscript is one long block of actionable text. And, let’s be honest, who wants to read boring text when it’s the dialogue that catches readers’ attention? A lot of writers tell aspiring writers the key to a great manuscript is showing, not telling. But if you over show, readers may mistake your novel for an action film. As a writer, you may be wondering how you can improve your dialogue to the point of mastering it. Try following these tips below.
Conflict Is Your Best Friend.
The main key to mastering dialogue is conflict. Who doesn’t love conversation with a good debate? If your characters agree with each other for every little thing, then you won’t have a story. Now, this doesn’t mean that your characters can’t always agree with each other. Sure, they might agree that pineapples on pizza are a no go, but what if they disagree on what to watch while eating said pizza?
What’s Your Reason?
There must be a reason for your dialogue. It must move the story forward. You can’t just insert dialogue to take up space on the page. There must be a reason for it. You shouldn’t mention your character has a gun on page 45 if they aren’t going to use down the line somewhere. The same goes for dialogue. If your main character asks someone what their plans are for the night, it must be detrimental to the plot as well as the conversation.
Your characters should all have unique voices. No two people are going to sound alike; not even twins sound the same. To ensure your characters have their own voices, try cutting out the action and dialogue tags. “Read over the manuscript and see if you can figure out which character says what line. If you easily mistake your main character for a secondary character, then chances are you need to revamp your dialogue. Try listening to conversations going on around you to see how different the two people communicate,” suggests Adam Jims, an editor at Write My X and Nextcoursework.
Read Your Dialogue
Does your dialogue flow? To figure this out, read your manuscript out loud. You may feel silly reading it aloud, but how else are you going to find out if your dialogue sounds natural and not strained? Don’t want to read your own manuscript out loud? Try using a free screen reading service that will read your writing out loud to you. But if you’re reading it yourself, you can give your characters different voices and tones.
Y’all vs. You All
Don’t be afraid to use slang. The red line that appears under your “misspelled” word on your word processing software is sure to drive you nuts. But maybe your main character is from the south and uses ‘y’all’ instead of ‘you all’. Maybe your main character doesn’t pronounce the ‘g’ when they say they’re goin’ out on a date. Whatever the case may be, just make sure it’s consistent.
Charlie, Charlie, Charlie
“Do not have your characters repeatedly saying the other characters’ names. It’s fine if your character is trying to get someone else’s attention. With that exception, how often do we repeatedly use someone’s name when we’re talking to them? Your main character might want to use another character’s name when trying to get their point across,” says Valerie Adams, a writer at 1 Day 2 Write and Britstudent. However, if your dialogue is strong enough, they won’t have to continuously say the character’s name. Your reader is smart enough to interpret the point. Give them credit for it.
Avoid long dialogue
Sometimes characters have a lot of things they want to get off their chest, and that’s perfectly fine, but keep your readers in mind when doing this. Try breaking up the lengthy dialogue by having one of your characters idiosyncrasies come out. Or give them something to do. Your character has a drawn-out story they want to share with their best friend or significant other; have them take a sip of water in between or check their watch to see what time it is. Anything to break up the dialogue and avoid your reader skimming through the blocky text.
What’s Wrong With You Today?
Have your characters avoid questions at times; in reality, we don’t answer every question we’re asked. Think about it? If someone asks your character, “what’s keeping you from pursuing your dream?”, is your character going to just blurt the answer out? They shouldn’t. They’re going to make that person drag the answer out of them, and even then, it’s going to take some time. Not all questions will be answered right then and there.
So Today My Coworker…
Interruptions are the most realistic addition to the dialogue. Imagine your character is sitting around the dinner table with their family and getting ready to tell them about their day, and your character makes it through the entire conversation without any interruptions. Is this normal? Not likely. If you want your dialogue to seem as realistic and natural as possible, it isn’t possible without interruptions. So, try adding in a few things like the telephone rings or the baby starts crying or the timer for dessert just dinged right in the middle of your character’s story.
So, see? There is no secret formula to this. All you have to do is make it as realistic as possible, and you’ll have achieved mastering dialogue.
Mildred Delgado is a young and responsible marketing strategist at Academicbrits.com. She works with a company’s marketing team in order to create a fully-functional site that accurately portrays the company. Mildred presents this information in a series of marketing proposals at Phdkingdom and Originwritings.