Do's And Don'ts Of Dialogue Writing

When we were younger, our teachers impressed upon us the importance of having vivid descriptions in our writing. I think the essential aspect of writing has natural and exciting dialogue. There is no way that an explanation can advance the plot of your story in the same way that dialogue can. Writing natural-sounding dialogue isn't nearly as challenging as you might think. In addition, once you have mastered it, the rest of your book will make much more sense. The pace will pick up, and you'll find yourself furiously tapping away on the keyboard to keep up with your characters' conversations.

What to Do When Writing Dialog

DO: Cut out the Boring Stuff

One of the most prevalent issues I encounter in debut novels is dull, standard dialog.

A conversation between your characters starts with "Hey Bob, how's the Missus? How are the children faring? Maintaining that miserable office job? Oh yeah, Margery from high school, did you hear about her? Your reader will inevitably leave. This generic summary of essential information not only probably has no bearing on your plot, breaking one of the rules above, but it could also be presented in much more engaging ways.

Please get rid of the parts that aren't interesting, and don't be afraid to join the conversation in the middle of it. If your reader needs to play catch-up, that's a good sign. Not only will this keep them on their toes, but it will also prevent you from bogging down your story with pointless banter. Just jump right in with the essential part!

DO: Use Dialog to Show Your Characters

Characterization of the various cast members can be accomplished very effectively through dialog.

Are they quick-witted and sarcastic? Are they anxious around their boss, or are they exhausted? Not only will your writing be more attractive as a result of this, but you won't have to rely on telling the reader about the emotions that your character is experiencing. Instead, show us that he is upset by how he struggles to keep conversations going or becomes distant in the middle of sentences rather than telling us that he is upset.

Although written dialogue will never be able to capture the sound of spoken conversation perfectly, this does not mean that the conversations we have in real life cannot inspire us.

To get started, think back on some of the most exciting exchanges you've ever had. They probably contained a lot of hidden meanings, double intenders, inside jokes, and irony, all of which contributed to a humorous and engaging experience overall. As you and the other person ping-pong new ideas off of each other, your conversations may contain several half-thoughts and sentences that are abruptly cut off.

DO: Use Real Conversations for Inspiration

Even though written dialog will never sound the same as spoken conversation, that doesn't mean that the conversations we have in real life can't inspire us!

Consider some of the most exciting exchanges you've ever had as a starting point. They most likely contained a wealth of subtext, double meanings, inside jokes, and irony, all of which contributed to an enjoyable and engaging experience. Because you and the other person are ping-ponging new ideas off of each other, your conversations may also contain unfinished thoughts and sentences.

Because we rarely communicate with one another using complete answers and direct questions, most of our conversations are structured in this manner.

Consequently, your readers will, on occasion, find that they have to "read between the lines" to comprehend the full meaning of what you have written, which is a positive thing! Not only can this be entertaining to read, but it also offers a simple way to hint at future events without the other characters in the show catching on to what is being said. The best part is that it makes your dialogue sound much less artificial. It turns out that we aren't as polite as robots; we have no problem talking over each other or ignoring the questions that each other poses.

DO: Know How to Use Silence

In the same way, you should get used to writing dialogue, and you should also become familiar with the appropriate times to have your characters remain silent.

The absence of sound can convey a variety of messages. It can show the fear, uncertainty, or confusion a character is experiencing or reveal the underlying tension between two characters. It may be funny, it may be dull, or it may bring out strong feelings—sometimes all three! You can further improve the subtext of your dialog by being aware of when to use silence. This allows you to let the character's lack of response speak for itself, which further enhances the subtext.

What NOT to do when writing dialogue

Don't: Use Dialog as a Crutch

Dialog is a fantastic tool for a novelist to have at their disposal, but only if it is used in the appropriate context.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, you should ensure that the dialog in your story serves a purpose and is relevant to the overall narrative. However, it can be tempting to use dialog whenever two characters are in the same room together. If it doesn't contribute to the progression of the plot, the revelation of important information, or the resolution of the conflict in your story, it's probably worth cutting.

Don't: Force Your Character’s Voice

You are not recommended to replicate spoken dialog because your reader would become lost in a sea of slurred words and thoughts that are only partially developed. However, many authors try to imbue their characters with a distinct voice by employing slang, abbreviations, and intentional pronunciation errors in their work.

Don't get me wrong—using accents in writing is common and often very effective.

The problem arises when these tricks are performed artificially.

Accents are believable when they are applied consistently, when they are balanced with normal dialog, and when they are done well. For example, on one page, a character won't refer to potatoes as spuds, but on the next page, they'll refer to them as potatoes. However, you shouldn't expect them to replace every word in their conversation with slang. Not only does the excessive use of accents confuse the reader, but it also has the potential to cross the line between interesting character development and stereotyping slowly.

Too many authors make fun of a character's intelligence, social class, or even race by giving them a dialect of English that is broken up and full of slang. Even though it's great to write characters like they would have spoken, especially in a historical context, it's important to keep compassion and sensitivity in mind. In any other case, it will, at best, annoy your reader and, at worst, infuriate them.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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