Ever read a book where the character just fell flat? They sounded awkward and unrealistic and made you sad as you put the book down, realizing you just couldn’t stomach it anymore? Or maybe they were that bad they just weren’t good? Me too. And one of my biggest fears as I tottled down the path to writing my first book was that mine would be just as bad.
Luckily for you,
my fear led me to tried and tested steps to make sure your characters speak as eloquently, or realistically, as you want and need them too.
- Don’t Sweat it in the First Draft: The first draft of a novel is hard enough without adding the stress of trying to come up with perfect witty dialogue. Wait until a later draft to focus on this aspect of the craft.
- Listen to Good Dialogue: Listening to good dialogue is the best way to improve your own writing. Just like studying story will help you improve yours, studying dialogue will do the same thing. There are a lot of shows and movies with witty dialogue that will keep you entertained all on its own but if you write chick lit, romance, or women’s fiction, I highly recommend you check out both Hart of Dixie and Gilmore Girls. They’re both on Netflix and both have had a positive influence on my own writing. If you write in another genre look for a show with dialogue that stands out. Like Firefly (Scifi) or American Horror Story (Horror). In American Horror story the dialogue gives the watcher clues as who characters really are and what their true intentions may be. While some are spot on others are red herrings. Dialogue is such a powerful tool. Use it to your advantage.
- Read Your Dialogue Out Loud: Do this. It might feel awkward or uncomfortable to hear your words but it’s well worth the effort. Nothing can help you figure out where you need
workbetter than reading it out loud. This goes for all your prose but especially dialogue. Besides, you don’t want to stumble over your words during a reading because you missed this step.
- Read good dialogue: Listening to good dialogue is helpful and gets your mind wrapped around how good dialogue sounds. Reading it shows you what it looks like. This is also helpful if you can’t hear and aren’t able to do #3 yourself.
- Use it to tell the backstory: Really good dialogue does so much more than show communication between characters. How something is said can tell a reader about a relationship. When a character speaks or stays silent can tell a reader a lot about the character’s personality. Are they the kind of person who gives excuses when things go wrong or do they stay silent and take the punishment (no matter how legitimate the excuse may be). Bear this in mind as you revise your draft and are focusing on streamlining your story. For example: When introducing your MC’s ex-wife you could say “Hello Margeret,” the name slipped off his tongue as easily as it had before she’d broken his heart. OR “Hey Margeret, I heard you’re on your fifth husband, glad I got in there before your standards slipped,” he said with a teasing grin reserved ex-lovers.
What is your best kept secret about dialogue? Do you love it or hate it?
About the Author
Marissa Frosch is the founder of Raven’s Quill Publishing. She got her Associate’s Degree in Marketing from Southern New Hampshire University in May 2018, is a Certified Book Launch Coach trained by Tim Grahl, and is working on her Story Grid Editor Certification.
After working co-founding Amphibian Press and working there for five years, Marissa started Raven’s Quill Publishing. Be sure to download your free Author Platform Guide. Marissa also writes fiction under the name Cameron J Quinn.