Write Sparkling Dialogue

Seven tips for writing dialogue effortlessly

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

I once heard an editor at a writer’s conference say she scans a manuscript to see how much white space and dialogue is included in a novel before she decides to read it and eventually acquire the story.

So, why would an editor say this? Does it seem illogical?

Actually, it makes perfect sense. She checked for dialogue because dialogue moves a story forward, and narrative tends to slow a story down.

Dialogue is interesting, defines your characters, picks up the pacing of the novel, and readers enjoy reading it more than they do exposition.

Therefore, it behooves us to learn to write good dialogue and to include a lot of it in our stories.

Writing good dialogue

What makes dialogue good? This is one of those things that we recognize when we read it. Good dialogue flows well; we become so immersed in what the characters say that we barely notice that we are turning the pages. It sounds like real speech (deceptively so), and it sounds the way the specific character would speak.

But how do we achieve this natural dialogue that feels effortless and interesting?

Here are a few tips:

· Keep dialogue short — long monologues should be rare. People do not usually speak in long paragraphs. Listen to people speak and notice that they ask questions and respond briefly and usually not in complete sentences. Mimic this type of speech.

· Don’t dump tons of backstory into dialogue — think of a more creative way to add backstory. Instead of saying, “Remember when mom used to make us eat broccoli until we threw up and then punished us for getting sick? That’s why I’m an anorexic today.” you might create a back-and-forth dialogue between the siblings where they discuss their mother and their various issues. They could even do it jokingly.

“God, I hate broccoli.”

“I would too if I’d had it coming out of my nose,” her sister joked.

“Don’t remind me.”

“I think she loved feeding you…