The #1 Tip For Better Dialogue

Let’s face it. Writing dialogue is not the easiest task in the world. I felt like I had to practice for years with conversations in my head of people going back and forth just to feel the natural rhythm that good dialogue has.

But there is one major thing I’ve noticed after years of practice and that’s that all good dialogue reflects the characters that are talking in some way, shape or fashion.

Simply put: The better you know your characters, the better your dialogue

Most of the time dialogue is used as a creative way to get information from one character to another, however, a preacher( who may be soft spoken, careful with their words, etc) is going to use different words than a drill sergeant who may be more blunt and straight to the point.

Personality plays a role, who they are talking to plays a role, and also the character’s lifestyle or career.

One thing you can do right now to make your dialogue better is really think about who each of the character are in the conversation, what their past were and how their life experience (like the preacher and the sergeant) may impact not only their dialogue but their tone of voice, their patience when talking and their ability to even explain themselves well. It all comes together, just like real people.

The better you know your characters the easier it will be to put your mind in their shoes and say something that a person like them would say. For example, a kid trying to explain something cool is going to sound a lot more exciting than an over worked librarian who can’t wait to go home.

Dialogue is not black and white simple words on a page with quotes around them. It is your character’s chance to talk and communicate with the outside world and their voice should be as unique and special just like any other person in real life. Because to them, the world you’ve created is their life.

Thank you reading and comment below what you do to make your dialogue stand out as a writer.

5 Tips to Creating Realistic Dialogue (Video)

In this video I share my top five tips to help you enhance your dialogue so that your characters sound realistic and their words pop off the page! Enjoy. Please comment as well.

Dialogue: What’s Not Being Said

What are you not saying?

What are you not saying?

One of the misconceptions of writing is that you have to say everything the character is thinking. But most of you know that isn’t true. I’ve thought about this for a while, connecting the fact that dialogue can show more than what your character’s say. It speaks for what the character’s not saying as well.

Dialogue Choice

What your characters say or doesn’t say can mean something for your readers. Are the characters hiding something? Are they shy or hesitant? Are they liars?

The phrasing of a thought or the hidden words from your character’s fumbling sentence can show a lot.

How It Can Enhance Your Writing

1. You can create edgy characters who hide what they really mean by only choosing select words or phrases

2. It allows your characters to use more gestures and other body language to show what they really mean or how they really feel.

An example of this would be a shy character fumbling with his words when trying to ask out a hot girl. You describe his body language as fidgeting, sweating, and his words are incoherent but the readers understands how your character feels in other ways than dialogue alone.

photo credit: Kzenon from 123.rt.com

How To The Write POV Of The Opposite Sex

photo credit from 123.rf.com

You are a woman writing from the point of view of a male character.

Or

You are a man writing a novel from the 1st person perspective of a woman.

This type of writing can be tricky if you’re not used to doing it. You want to know your characters best, but can you really know what’s going through a woman’s mind if you’re a man and vice versa?

Why it’s different

As a writer, you’re used to writing what you know and being the opposite sex is something you are most likely to infer from tv shows or dramatic romance movies.

So how do you write a character that is a man/woman when you’re not one?

How I do it

In my first novella, When Love Hurts, I switch point of view with my second main character, Jaylen. Even though he’s a man, I write his words and dialogue as if I was a man myself. I picture Jaylen as a strong and confident man and since a woman can have those traits as well, I was able to get into a confident person’s mindset to make it work.

I did this by focusing on gender similarities instead of their differences. Both genders need to eat, sleep, and feel acceptance. They also both have strengths and weaknesses. You can create your character to have whatever personality you choose regardless of gender.

What you need to think about is dialogue. You don’t want your female characters to sound like men and your men to sound like women. (At least, if you don’t intend for them too.)

Dialogue

Reread your dialogue and ask yourself if a man or a woman would really say that. Yes, your character can be unique but you don’t want it to be unintentionally out of place for your character.

If you’re really unsure about your dialogue, don’t feel discouraged to ask a friend of that sex if it sounds like it would come from a man or woman.

Thoughts

Don’t worry too much about the different thoughts men and women have because they are different from character to character. If you keep your story plot-focused then your story should continue to be moving forward.

As people, we interact with the opposite sex every day and there are things we learn from them. We have some things in common but we’re still different.

We can learn a lot from just observing people. Not in a creepy way but to study how different people handle different things whether they are a guy or a girl. You can read more about observing people or eavesdropping here.

I think the main thing to remember is to go with your gut instincts. If you have a feeling something doesn’t sound right, it’s better to ask a few people and be sure than to keep questioning it over and over in your head. Men and woman are the same and very different at the same time so writing from a different perspective like that can be challenging at times.

What do you do when you write a character from the opposite gender of your own? Share your creative findings in the comments.

-Shaquanda

Are Dialogue Tags Necessary?

Is it possible for your readers to know which of your characters are talking without using tags? i.e Mary said, John said, or Katie said.

I think yes.

Here are three reasons how it can be possible:

  1. If you know your character’s voice including word choice and vocabulary helps your reader decipher who’s talking. Knowing your character’s personality and style helps too.
  2. Your readers need to be AWARE of your character’s way of talking. This takes a while and is more likely to develop in the subconscious mind as the reader is halfway finished with your story. Getting your readers used to how your characters talk as well as how they behave develops the more the spend time reading about that character.
  3. Being aware of what your character would not say in their dialogue also adds to being able to identify him or her without a tag.

Examples:

Guess who’s saying what

What you, the writer, knows: one man is highly educated, one woman is sophisticated

“Can you pass me that pen, please?”

“No. Here, use this pencil instead. You’re completing a packet of math problems and you will make mistakes.”

“I don’t make mistakes.”

“If you think that, you are a fool.”

Can you tell which person was saying what words? In truth, the sophisticated woman had the first line and the educated man had the second and it continued back and forth. I’m hoping it was easy to tell the two apart.

Try this one: one is a child and the other one is a perky woman

“No.”

“It’s fun. Just try it. Run until you get to the slippery part and slide down on your belly. It’s called a Slip N’ Slide!”

“No.”

“Why not? Wait here and I’ll show you. Are you watching? See…Weeee!”

“You’re silly.”

In this one the child had the first line and the woman had the second. Being able to show who’s talking without the use of tags can be done mostly by knowing how each of your characters talk.

I’m not saying not to use tags because we need all the “she said, he said, they said” to introduce who’s talking to our readers.

But I do not think writers should depend on tags alone to show who’s talking. The dialogue should be able to stand alone and speak for itself.

Word Choice

Mastering word choice is a vital part for showing who is talking rather than telling it at the end of the dialogue with a “Kate said” or a “Timmy said” ending. Different people can say the same thing in different ways that’s why knowing your characters is so important.

Each of your characters has different experiences, background, vocab, and personalities and each of those areas influence their dialogue and word choice.

What do you as a writer think about word choice showing who is talking? Do you use tags more often or word choice to show who’s talking? Share what you think about tags in the comments below. photo credit 123.rf.com

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