|Photo credit: theilr on Flickr|
As many of you know, dialogue makes a huge impact on your writing—stilted dialogue can very easily ruin an otherwise well-written scene, while lines of great dialogue are often quoted by readers as their favorite lines from the book. But how do you ensure that you’ve written brilliant dialogue? The secrets to brilliance, my friends, are here.
How to Write Brilliantly Fantastic Dialogue That Will Leave Your Readers Clamoring for More*
- Make sure your characters always address each other. As your readers can’t see that your characters speaking to each other (you’re not writing a screenplay for a movie—you’re writing a book), it’s very easy for them to become confused. Who is speaking to whom? The quickest way to remedy this is to make sure your characters address each other, like so:
“Hello Bob, how are you doing?”
“I’m doing very well, Mary, and yourself?”
“I couldn’t be better, Bob!
“That’s wonderful, Mary.”
“Isn’t it, Bob?”
“Truly, it is, Mary.”
And so on.
- Never use “said.” “Said” is about the most clichéd word in the English dictionary and must be avoided at all costs, unless you want to bore your readers to death. Besides, why would you use “said” when there are dozens of more interesting words like “remarked,” “declared,” “divulged,” “avowed,” and “proclaimed”? You wouldn’t. That’d just be silly.
- In fact, forget dialogue tags altogether. Who really uses dialogue tags anymore, anyway? All they do is weigh down your writing with unnecessary words. Besides, your readers will know who is speaking to who since all of your characters are addressing each other in every line.
- Quotation marks are cliché. Use italics to differentiate your dialogue from the rest of the writing. It looks much prettier.
- No cussing. There are NO circumstances when it’s ok for your characters to curse—it’s very ugly and few things will chase your readers away faster than cursing characters. Instead, use substitute words like “fairy poo,” “fiddlesticks” and “shish kabobs” to save your readers’ innocence.
- Formal speech is a must. If your characters don’t sound like they came out of a work of Shakespeare, you aren’t doing it right.
- Write out accents. How are your readers supposed to remember all of the various accents your characters have if you don’t sound them out? Hope y’all err havin’ a fantaaaastic day! looks much better than “Hope y’all are having a fantastic day, she said with a Southern accent.”
- Use as much punctuation as possible. Case and point: WHY AREN’T YOU USING ENOUGH PUNCTUATION?!?!?!?!?!?!?!???????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????????!!!!!!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!.....?!
- Strive for uniformity. It is essential that all of your characters sound the same, otherwise you risk confusing your readers with characters that don’t sound like they belong in the same book.
- Forget dialogue altogether. You know what? Who really needs dialogue, anyway? Silent movies were all the rage way back when, what’s to say it can’t work now?
Now it’s your turn: what dialogue “tips” would you add to the list?