Top 7 Secrets for writing Brilliant Dialogue
In a novel, nothing drives the action along faster than sharp, memorable dialogue, and nothing helps you bring your characters to life more vividly and naturally. Good dialogue is the key to good fiction. Here are some hints to help you focus on this vital aspect of your writing.
Make it sound natural
Always read dialogue out loud to yourself; make sure that the rhythms and cadences, the flow of the language, sound natural, sound like the way people speak, sound overheard, the way you overhear two people talking on a bus.
Exaggerate the natural mismatches
As a writer of course, you can manipulate the process in various ways. People don’t always listen to each other very carefully, so you can exaggerate the natural mismatches between question and answer, statement and response.
Push the Boundaries
Have your characters talk at each other, across, over, down to each other; have them hear things that haven’t been said, get offended by insults that haven’t been made, answer questions that weren’t being asked and ignore the ones that were.
Bring to life with realistic interaction
In this way your dialogue will sound natural and realistic, but it will bring your characters, and their relationships with each other, to life. When two of your characters misunderstand each other, the reader understands both of them better.
Use to re-affirm a situation
Of course dialogue can also be used, in a very natural-sounding way, for explanation: when one of your characters explains a situation to another character, the reader’s understanding is also updated.
Some things are best left unsaid
Finally dialogue – in fiction and in real life – is always for a purpose: persuasion, seduction, justification, evasion. But in real life, a major function of conversation is also to carry out very mundane tasks: What can I get you? How much is that? Above all, conversation is used to pass the time.
In the novel you don’t have time for any of this, so a golden rule is leave almost everything out. Things that are left unsaid often resonate more strongly that what is said. If a piece of dialogue doesn’t move the narrative forward, or illuminate characters or relationships, leave it out!
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