Breaking Points: Looking for Weak Spots in your Dialogue - article

Dialogue by definition is the part of the storytelling process in which your characters communicate. It’s a delicate balance that they must walk when speaking in this type of setting. In real life people ramble on about things just to converse, but in a storyline the words that come out of the mouths of our players must fill some purpose.

This role of dialogue in our stories must accomplish multiple tasks to be successful. Dialogue must first increase your story’s pace and not bog it down because it creates a reality directly from your characters. Dialogue should also showcase the character’s unique voice and reveal who that character really is by allowing readers to see how they treat others. Dialogue can also be used effectively to increase the conflict and complicate the plot by revealing a secret or lie.

So what common dialogue mistakes should you look for?

You don’t want conversation to be used simply to deliver information about a back story, because showing is more entertaining. For example, “I can’t believe our home was repossessed last year, honey.” This isn’t good dialogue because it’s obvious that the partner already knows this information and its only purpose is to tell the reader. If the information is important, then have your character tell someone else who doesn’t know. For example, the new neighbor could be told, “I can’t believe it’s been a year since my house was repossessed.”

Next, remember you are creating a story that is meant to be entertaining and not just another day in someone’s life. You don’t want a character that goes on about nothing. You also don’t want small talk, because this type of dialogue does nothing to move the story forward and doesn’t help to develop your characters.

You need to be sure to go back and read what was written, especially the dialogue, so that it feels natural and has a flow that will keep your readers in the moment and in your world. Avoid having your characters repeatedly call each other by their first names. It’s not normal to constantly say a name, such as, “Mike can you do this?” and “Mike, that’s not how you do that.” The reader should know who is talking by the way you’ve set up the scene.
A few last tidbits. Don’t let your characters become too dramatic because just as drama can be grueling in real life, so can it in fiction. Let your characters show emotions with actions.

Dialogue should be organic and natural. Get into your characters, and let the words flow as if you were acting out their parts. Study as much dialogue as you can to make what you write that much better.

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