Dialogue can be one of the trickiest elements in writing fiction. But knowing how to write effective and convincing dialogue is essential to being published. Here are some tips on how to write effective dialogue in fiction.
Tip One: Be consistent. Each character in your fiction will have his or her own way of speaking. Just as with real people, your character’s way of speaking should not change from day to day or chapter to chapter. It is essential that your dialogue be consistent in order to be effective. You may not pick up on inconsistencies until your first read-through. But on that first read-through, be sure to watch for them. Characters should not be articulate one day and inarticulate the next. Nor should they change accents or suddenly start using slang.
Tip Two: Keep dialogue brief. There are few things worse in novels than paragraphs and paragraphs of dialogue by one character (what actually amounts to a lengthy monologue). Usually this occurs when one character is explaining to another some series of events or background. Dan Brown does it occasionally in The DaVinci Code, but I daresay you should not model your writing after Brown’s. This type of dialogue would, in fact, be better as exposition. A simple sentence like “John Smith explained…” can start you off, and you can put in snippets of dialogue or skip the dialogue altogether for a few paragraphs.
Tip Three: Watch movies. While you can model a character’s speech after a person you know in real life, you should watch movies to see how characters should actually speak in your fiction. Seldom do you hear the “uhs” and “likes” and the “ums.” Indeed the way people really speak becomes quite boring on the page. Listen instead to dialogue in movies.
Tip Four: Novice writers are frequently convinced that they should vary their dialogue tags. But “‘Yes,’ he said” and “‘No,’ she said” are perfectly fine throughout your novel. They are practically transparent to the reader. Indeed it is words like “mocked” and “rasped” and “hissed” that draw attention to the fact that the reader is reading a story and that she is not actually there with the characters.
Tip Five: Likewise, eliminate as many adverbs in your dialogue tags as possible. J. K. Rowling gets away with an awful lot of them, but new writers without a billion dollars usually don’t. “‘Yes,’ he said angrily” should be entirely unnecessary if you set the scene properly. The reader should already know that the person speaking the dialogue is angry.
Thanks for reading How to Write Effective Dialogue in Fiction, and good luck with your writing.