10 Tips for Dialogue

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Dialogue...do it wrong and you can slaughter a story.

I don't just mean in terms of grammar, even though that aspect of it is very important. I covered that a little bit in my chapter titled "A Few Basic Rules of Grammar." I won't be going back into the grammar side of it for now, but if you have questions, either ask or google it! There are plenty of answers out there.

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Author's Note: I wrote a long, extensive chapter about my tips for dialogue, then my computer froze and I lost it all. So, I will attempt to rewrite my notes, but in exchange for some of them, I'd like to include this piece of a Writers Digest article for you all. I'll include the original link on the side.

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1. Never use dialogue as an information dump.

-Too many writers rely on dialogue for story exposition—that is to say that they relay details about plot or backstory through the things their characters say. The result? Writing that sounds completely fake or is what is often referred to as “on the nose dialogue.” Like this: “As you know,” Dr. Constance said, “I’m a forensic specialist, trained by the FBI in DNA analysis, so I’ll take this sample back to the lab for testing."

2. Use simple dialogue tags.

-Fancy dialogue tags like she denounced or he proclaimed might seem like a good way to show off your writer’s vocabulary, but in truth they draw attention away from your dialogue. She said or he said is almost always your best choice. Let the characters’ words speak for themselves.

3. Use dialogue beats to help with story pacing and to convey information or emotion.

-Dialogue beats are brief depictions of character action inserted in between dialogue that help bring the scene to life. Like this: “Nah, I don’t mind,” Dan shrugged his shoulders and grinned as he wiped a dirty bandana across his forehead, “Let’s do this thing.”

4. Remember that often less is more.

-When you write dialogue look back and see if there are words you can leave out or there is a shorter way to say what you just wrote. People often say things the shortest way possible in real life. Slim down on the amount of dialogue that you write, there is no need to overload the audience.

5. Be careful when writing dialect.

-Many writers think that giving a character an accent or a drawl is a great way to make the character come to life—and it can be. But if done in a way that is too heavy handed it can turn your character into a stereotype or a joke. Or even worse, you can offend or annoy readers. So, keep in mind that when it comes to dialect, a little goes a long way.

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Those tips were some that I originally included, and here are some more that you should be aware of:

6. Create speaking mannerisms.

-Especially in fantasy worlds, where there are different status levels and education. For example, a rich, well educated princess would not speak the same as poor, uneducated pig farmer.

Things to keep in mind:

~Geographic background (a Texan doesn't speak the same as a Bostonian)

~Educational level

~Age (Like, is your character, like, a total teenager?)

~Personality (Is your character nervous, impulsive, aggressive, flirtatious, shy?)

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