“How do you write good dialogue?” the writers asked, pondering the thought.

“It is not as easy as it seems,” Alissa said. “The trick is making it sound like you didn’t write it.”

Dialogue. Most fiction stories have it, and many times the dialogue makes a story more believable than even its plot or characters. When characters speak to one another, it helps a writer show the audience feelings and personality rather than simply telling the reader. Dialogue also helps build drama and breaks up long blocks of text. It is something writers have difficulty with often, but here are some things you can do to make your dialogue sparkle.

In order to make your speech seem like it is not speech, one huge tip is to listen to people speak. If reading is practice for writing, than listening to dialogue is great practice for writing spoken word. However, it should not sound like real speech—it should be read as speech. Take out the long blocks of speech. Take out the overdoing of stereotyping, dialects, and accents. Also, take out the parts of dialogue that do nothing to further the plot.

Another tip for good dialogue is to be careful with the verbs that follow a sentence of speech. Using the word “said” too much is actually very difficult thing to achieve in fiction. On the other hand, the overuse of any other action verb can get distracting very quickly, very fast. You can normally tell the emotion of someone by the words they say. Use action verbs sparingly for a great mix.

With all these tips in dialogue, remember not to go overboard on dialogue in general. Break up words with scenery, character action, or thoughts. When two people have a conversation together, there is very rarely nothing going on in the background or around them.

Another important thing is to punctuate dialogue correctly. Here are some big things to remember:

  • Use a comma between the dialogue and the rest of the sentence.

o   “I’m reading The Great Gatsby for the thirty-third time,” she told the librarian.

  • Set off taglines with commas.

o   “I’ve started writing,” he said. “And I’m already on chapter four.”

  • Quotations within quotations switch off between double and single quotes.

o   “I asked about his writing, and he said, ‘I’m working on a 500-page novel.’”

  • If a sentence has no tagline, the punctuation usually goes inside the quotation marks.

o   “I love writing!”

Dialogue makes a story come alive and is the most useful tool for creating memorable characters. Just like watching the world for inspiration, everything around you also carries the tools for creating realistic dialogue. Start writing and get talking!

Alissa