He Said / She Said?


Creating great dialogue can be quite tricky. Here are a few helpful tips.  

Voice and vocabulary: Your characters are different. Tall. Short. Blonde. Brunette. Give each one his or her own voice, expressions, and vocabulary. If they all looked and reacted the same, and used Rats! or Oh man!, wouldn’t your story be boring?

Make it Realistic: Next time you’re in a coffee shop, or walk through the food court at the mall, have a seat and listen to the conversations around you (it’s not your fault they’re sitting close enough for you to hear). It’s not what they say that’s important, it’s how they say it. Pay attention to the tone, pitch, and expressions.

Focus: When you write dialogue, stay focused on the topic. Don’t veer somewhere out to left field, or you may end up with someone asking what in the world it had to do with the story. 

Tags: Unless there are more than two people in the conversation, and you need to clarify which one’s talking, don’t use tags too often. It gets annoying to read he said / she said at the end of every sentence. When it’s necessary, vary it up. He added / she exclaimed / he asked / she replied. If you haven’t bought one already, I strongly recommend the Flip Dictionary to help with replacement words. 

Don’t Be Too Formal: You want it to flow well, naturally, you don’t want the whole book to sound like the narrative. My next point explains this better.

Complete Sentences? Not in dialogue. At least not all the time. And don’t over use your character’s names. Why use too many words when you can say the same thing with fewer of them? In most cases, less is better. How often do you say to a close friend, “Hello, Jane. How have you been?” “I am fine, thank you.” Isn’t it more like “Hey! How’s it going?” “Fine, thanks.” Concise. Your characters’ conversation should be like that. Of course, you need to keep in mind who’s speaking and to whom. You wouldn’t use the same wording with someone in a position of authority.

Show Actions: Your characters are not robots. They can do different things while talking. Show their action, no matter how insignificant it may seem. 

Jane folded her hands on the kitchen table. “We need to talk.”
Brent nodded, straddling the chair across from her. “What’s up?”

“I’m pregnant.”
He sighed, rubbing his hand over his stubby chin. Unable to maintain eye contact, he glanced toward the window, shaking his head.

Show, don’t tell. Without saying it, I showed my reader Brent’s not happy with the news. 

Create Conflict: Make it interesting. You don’t want to bore your readers to death or they’ll never read the sequel of your 3-book series.

Use Hooks: Yes, you can do that in dialogue. Give part of the information, but save some for later. You want your readers to come back when they’ve had to set the book down before the end. 

What are your tips and tricks for creating great dialogue? 


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