Writing Effective Dialogues

Paragraph after paragraph of description or action eventually bores a reader. Dialogues help to break up this monotony. Crafting a relevant dialogue within the context of a story is often one of the trickiest parts of creative writing.

Here are a few tips on writing effective dialogues:

  • Writing dialogue isn’t about replicating a real-life conversation; rather it’s a summarized form of it. Dialogue should be concise, remember that less is more in this case. You must try to distil the conversation down to its very essence.
  • Dialogue must be in conflict. The characters should not agree in order for the conversation to develop. They should have conflicting goals. You require an underlying tension to keep the readers turning those pages.
  • Dialogues should flow smoothly and the conversations should read effortlessly. Remember to start a new paragraph each time the speaker changes within the dialogue. This helps the reader know when someone new is speaking. Use dialogue tags wisely and vary the length of the lines to make your passages of dialogue flow beautifully.
  • Insert brief depictions of character action in between dialogues to help with story pacing and to convey information or emotion. And remember to keep the description of the action within the same paragraph as the dialogue of the character engaged in it.
  • Dialogue is a great characterization tool. It helps the readers’ to understand a character’s personality, appearance, ethnicity, sexuality, background, and morality. Keep the character’s voice in mind. Don’t have the characters all sound the same.  There dialogues should be a natural extension of their personality. 
  • The characters should have an agenda and their dialogues should have a purpose. It should drive the story forward and advance the plot in some way.
  • Don’t write in complete, grammatical sentences and get rid of most of the chit-chat and social niceties. In conversation, the answers should not be completed.
  • Use subtext in your dialogue. There should be ambiguity to lead the conversation on. For example- “I suppose I’m ok.”- Here ‘suppose’ opens subtext. What is he hiding? Why is he not saying it?

Although dialogue is one of the best methods for getting information across in pieces without disrupting the forward momentum of the novel, it should not to be used as an information dump for story exposition. Along with conveying information, dialogue should be doing many things at once – setting the scene, advancing action, giving insight into characters, foreshadowing and acting as a reminder. 

Keep these tips in mind and go ahead write your perfect story.


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