Many writers struggle with dialogue. Done correctly, dialogue keeps a novel advancing and develops our characters. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come easy to everyone so I’ve created a list that outlines bad dialogue issues.
This is when the characters sound like robots instead of humans. Most people use some form of slang when they talk in conversation so your characters are no different. It’s also important to remember where your book is set. For example, if your book is set in New York, then you have to use their unique regional dialect.
“The information you have provided is very helpful. Thank you once again for assisting me with my urgent problem.”
Don’t Data Dump in Dialogue
Let the story unfold naturally. Assume that your characters will remember certain facts and don’t put everything out there all at once. This, to me, is a pacing issue. I always create a detailed outline of my book before I write a word. That way, I make sure the pace stays even and I’m not tempted to give too much away all at once.
“Carter, don’t you remember that when I was eight years old, my parents were killed in a car accident and I feel personally responsible because I had asked them to drive me to a movie? Now, whenever I get in a car I am filled with anxiety. This has made it impossible for me to go on dates because I can’t pick up girls on my bicycle.”
Don’t Overdo Dialogue Tags
You don’t need a he said/she said after every sentence. Overuse takes the emotion out of the conversation and it’s just annoying to read. You want your reader enchanted by your dialogue, not your ability to create synonyms for “said”.
“Yes,” she said.
“No,” he said.
“Yes, I can,” she said.
“No, you can’t,” he said.
Break up Dialogue with Action
When’s the last time you had a conversation and you stood there without doing anything else? Maybe you were driving or folding clothes or drinking coffee. When writing, all those actions become part of your dialogue. The action adds excitement to what you’re saying.
“I refuse,” she said, slamming her hand into the table.
“I refuse,” she said.
The easiest way to learn realistic dialogue is to listen to the conversations going on all around you. Go to a crowded place like the mall or a park and people watch. Listen to the dialect, pay attention to their facial expressions and other body movements as they converse. It also doesn’t hurt to read a ton of books and see how the experts are doing it. Good luck!
Stacey O’Neale is a full-time writer and co-owner of the Young Adult Fantasy Guide. She’s had several articles and book reviews published, but spends most of her writing time on the revisions to her debut young adult fantasy novel. You can also follow her on Twitter.
Thanks for the picture: In the Middle of Nowhere