How To Write Natural Dialogues

Effective dialogue is integral to any novel, regardless of genre. Poor, flat dialogue can turn off readers and cause them to stop reading, whereas good dialogue can create the illusion that your characters are real, living people.

Of course, the best is more than just credible. They also help to inform readers by expanding the exhibit, giving characters a voice, and progressing the story. You will have pages and descriptions with some physical interactions between the characters if there is no dialogue—an excellent insomnia treatment.

To assist you in taking the sauce in your dialogues, I propose some principles for writing lively and dynamic conversations. And, because it is equally important, I will address what has long been my nightmare: dialogue punctuation.

Rule #1 — don’t start your dialogues too soon.

“Theatre is life; less of his moments of boredom.” Alfred Hitchcock

Similarly, we can say that the dialogues of a novel are like the conversations in life, but without useless stuff. And one of the best ways to cut the fat is to start conversations as late as possible.

When you tell your hero's story, do you explain in detail each time he goes to the bathroom, blows his nose, or drinks a glass of water?

Nope! Why? Because we don't care. It's not interesting, and it doesn't advance the story.

In the same way, we make fun of the beginnings of conversation of the kind:

" Hi, how are you?

- Yes, and you?

- Yeah. The weather is nice this morning….”

Attack right away in the heart of the matter. The reader will fill in the blanks on its own.

Rule #2 — Consume incises in moderation

Who says what?

Incises are sentences that allow the author to specify who is saying what. For instance:

"I can't wait to go on vacation," Georges said.

In this example, “dit Georges” is the incise. It allows the reader to identify who is speaking and clarifies the action. This is its first function.

It is necessary to insert an incise to prevent the reader from getting lost in the dialogue, not knowing who is saying what. But the principle to follow is to avoid them as often as possible to avoid this kind of thing:

“What do you want to eat, he asked.

“I don't know,” she replied.

“Come on, hurry up and choose, ” he barked. I'm hungry.

"One minute, " she said. There is no rush.

"I'm in a hurry," he replied. I work this afternoon. »

A little clumsy, right? Cumbersome and useless because since there are only two characters and we have understood the crux of the problem, we can easily get rid of the last three incises without losing any information:

“What do you want to eat, he asked.

“I don't know,” she replied.

- Come on, hurry up to choose. I'm hungry.

- One minute. There is no rush.

- I'm in a hurry. I work this afternoon. »

Who says how?

Its second function is to clarify the character's intent behind the dialogue. If the declarative verbs of the incise are all derivatives, more or less close, of the verbs "To say" and "To answer," certain verbs will make it possible to clarify the tone and the state of mind of the character who speaks.

Some examples of declarative verbs (among hundreds of others): are exclaim, shout, whisper, explode, bark, sob, etc.

Regarding the use of verbs of incises, there are two schools: the French and the American.

The French school advocates the diversity of verbs of incises. Therefore, the author (or the editor) will work to replace as many simple verbs as "Say" or "Reply" with more precise verbs, as quoted above.

The American school, on the other hand, thinks that the intention and the tone of the character must be integrated into the dialogue as clearly and as often as possible and that, consequently, it is useless to duplicate this information with other incises Than "Say" or "Reply."

For instance:

" You are fired! He shouted, banging his fist on the table.

In this example, we duplicate the information about the character's anger. We suspect someone who bangs his fist on the table will not sing, "You're fired!" The text and the body expression imply that he screams; there is no need to repeat it with the incise.

Rule #3 — Don't Forget Body Language

In real life, we cannot speak with our bodies. Instead, our hands move, our body strikes a pose, our face displays expressions, etc. It happens whether we like it or not.

To give the illusion of life to your characters, you must give them this bodily expression by simultaneously describing what they are doing as they speak in the same paragraph as your dialogues.

A good description can go as far as replacing an incise, avoiding the repetition of "he said," "she said," and the like.

Rule #4 — Give your characters a voice

Another key to writing realistic dialogue is ensuring the characters have their distinct voice. This involves several factors: syntax, diction, energy, formalism, humor, confidence, and all possible pronunciation particularities (stuttering, lisp, language tic, etc.).

Some of these factors may vary in intensity depending on the circumstances or, more specifically, who your character speaks to in the novel. Still, there should always be an easily identifiable undertone of personality to the way they speak.

Example:

“Hello, Eliot. Did you wash Mr. President's car, as I asked?

— Nope. I couldn't, Mister Ford. Due to this, there was a funny click in the gearbox.

- Well, I hope it's not serious. Did you alert the service mechanic?

— Yup. He'll look into it this afternoon, he said. »

Rule #5 — Bounce from character to character

In real life, we rarely do twenty-minute monologues. Instead, our discussions are more like tennis games where we exchange questions and comments.

You should keep this principle in mind when writing dialogue.

It may seem obvious, but this rule is easy to forget if one of your characters has something important to say. We tend to forget that the opposite character surely wants to answer.

It probably is if you realize that your character's dialogue is an enormous paragraph that sticks together in the middle of a page. Fortunately, this is easy to fix by inserting other characters' questions, comments, or interruptions.

You can put it in if you think a monologue is needed at this point in your story. But remember, you can air it out with little actions or descriptions to convey your protagonist's body language.

Rule #6 — Read your dialogue out loud

This advice applies to your novel but takes on special meaning when writing dialogue.

We instinctively recognize lousy dialogue, so reading your text aloud will make it easier to spot broken sentences and fix them.

Does your joke fall flat? Does your character talk too long? Is his voice not well recognizable? These issues will reveal themselves as you listen to your voice.

Rule #7 — Cut out what isn't necessary

It's worth remembering that dialogue is only part of your writer's toolkit, and you don't have to keep all the dialogue you write.

Indeed, you must choose the techniques that best tell your story and present the inner life of your characters. This may mean using a lot of dialogue or not.

Sometimes having your characters talk isn't the best option; perhaps your scene would be best told by the narrator or in a letter written by the protagonist.

Just because the dialogue can be brilliant doesn't mean it's always paramount to a scene – so don't be afraid to cut it if necessary.

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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