Some writers are better at writing breathtaking descriptions, while others excel at writing realistic, emotional-rollercoaster-inducing dialogue. A smaller portion of well-versed writers are apt at both. Based on what I’ve been told by a former writing teacher and a friend who helped me edit Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl, I fall into the “realistic dialogue” category. Which, to be honest, is rather weird to me, considering how socially awkward I am in real life. Nevertheless, today I’d like to share some tips for writing dialogue!
Tip #1: Write Dialogue Like You’re Talking to Someone
Yeah, it’s really that simple. Let your characters use contractions. Let them start their sentences with FANBOYS. Allow movement/dialogue tags to intersect their sentences so the characters’ actions emphasize what they’re saying. But, don’t use a formal tone–or fancy words for that matter–unless the subject matter/characterization calls for it.
Tip #2: Let Your Characters Show Emotion Through Their Words
In a dramatic scene, the last thing you want to do is for the character to tell the reader what their feeling. For example, if your main character’s sibling just died, you wouldn’t want them to turn to their friend and say, “I’m sad.” Bland character emotion doesn’t evoke emotion in the reader. Instead, allow your characters to break down for everyone to see. Let them say things that they’re afraid to say. Let them be vulnerable! No, you won’t be a bad Character Parent for it. Think of all your characters as your kids. Let them show real emotion when they talk, as if they’re real people.
An easy way to learn how people show emotion through their words (or movements, for dialogue tags) is to observe them. Or, you could allow characters to express themselves the same way you would in their situation. Do you cry easily when lectured/yelled at? Are you calm and collected when facing a stressful situation, or anxiety-ridden? Observe people or TV/movie characters with similar personalities to your character, and write what you see/hear! Eventually, you’ll be able to do it on your own!
Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Use Humor!
Never be afraid to let your characters joke around or poke fun at one another from time to time. Not only does humor portray a character’s personality; it also acts as a quiet way for readers to figure out who a character is comfortable with–i.e. who they joke around with the most, who they are awkward around, etc. Personally, I’m a big fan of utilizing humor in dialogue. There’s one character in particular I can’t wait for y’all to meet in Speak Your Mind!
So, there’s my three tips for writing dialogue! Like real conversations, fictional ones are best written when they’re natural, relatable, and can make the reader laugh, cry, or become frustrated along with the characters.
What tips do you have for writing dialogue? Or, better yet, what tips do you have for writing descriptions (not my strong suit!)?