Partridge India presents tips for writing dialogue
Despite its importance to characterisation, dialogue is often taken lightly by writers. This is unfortunate, as dialogue makes characters live. While some writers struggle with dialogue, generally it is somewhat easier to write than sheer narrative, as long as you are able to really put yourself into the shoes of your characters.
In this segment, Partridge India offers advice on how to utilise dialogue. One difference between dialogue in a novel and in everyday life is that “book” dialogue has to convey information. You will notice from books and indeed from movies that the dialogue does not really consist of “small talk”.
As a first step, Partridge India suggests having a look at your favorite books and seeing how the writers employ dialogue. Some of the early novelists also wrote plays, which of course are dialogue-based.
- Characters’ diction should sound realistic. Novelists of the past 100 years have been especially strong in this regard, though Thomas Hardy also showed a keen sense of this in his writing. If your story takes place in a particular region, make sure to include some regionalisms. If your character has a certain quirk or tendency, or is of a certain description (a military man or a sportsman, for example), it can be helpful to reflect some of that in his or her diction.
- Don’t let the dialogue run for too long without breaking it up with narrative. Otherwise, readers get lost, as in several scenes from Wuthering Heights.
- The choice of words should be that of our time period, unless you are writing for a specific genre like historical fiction or fantasy. Modern speech tends to have shorter sentences than are seen in 18th century novels, and fairly simpler words.
- Despite the temptation to do otherwise, avoid using too many synonyms for “said”. Readers do not want to be distracted by these variations; the focus should always be on the characters rather than the author.
Partridge India trusts this helps
Partridge India certainly hopes to help you depict real-life, tangible characters, amidst a smoothly written narrative. As suggested, have a look at your favorite books and study the use of dialogue. You will find that the best writers are also the best at using dialogue to move the story forward. Please find more writing advice on the Partridge India site.