Do you ever eavesdrop? Admit it! We’ve all leaned a smidge too close to that riveting conversation at the next café table. Not me, of course (wink). Dialogue in real life is messy, often roundabout, and sometimes it’s what’s not said that speaks volumes. So how do we emulate that in writing without putting readers to sleep?
Buckle up, writerly compatriots! We’re embarking on a journey through the melodious maze of dialogue.
1. The Power of Subtext
Real people often speak in subtext. We dodge, we hint, we imply. Our words are merely the tip of the iceberg.
Tip to Try: Craft a dialogue where characters are discussing something mundane (like tea), but they’re actually arguing about a deeper issue (like their relationship). If done right, the reader should feel the tension without the characters ever addressing the main problem directly.
2. Every Character Has a Voice
Each person sounds unique. They have different vocabularies, rhythms, and quirks. Ensure your characters don’t all sound like… well, like you.
Tip to Try: Write a dialogue without any dialogue tags or actions. If your characters are distinct enough, your reader should still be able to tell who’s speaking.
3. Keep it Snappy
Real-life conversations are filled with ums, ahs, and endless diversions. In writing, we don’t have that luxury.
Tip to Try: Cut, cut, and cut again. Once you’ve written a dialogue, challenge yourself to reduce it by half. It’s painful, I know, but your pacing will thank you.
4. Break it Up
Wall of text alert! Long, uninterrupted stretches of dialogue can overwhelm a reader. Use actions, internal thoughts, and setting descriptions to break up the dialogue and maintain pacing.
Tip to Try: Every time a character speaks, describe a small action they’re doing (fidgeting, glancing away, taking a sip of drink). This can also enhance the subtext!
5. Listen to Real Conversations
Go to a café, park, or any public place (not endorsing eavesdropping, but… research?). Listen to the rhythm, the interruptions, the overlaps, and the unspoken tensions.
Tip to Try: Transcribe a snippet of an overheard conversation. Then, adapt it into a dialogue in your story. Notice how much you have to edit to make it ‘fit’ but still sound ‘real’.
Dialogue is the heartbeat of your characters. It’s where their personalities, conflicts, desires, and quirks shine through. It’s a dance of words, a delicate balance between said and unsaid.
Join me next time when we explore “The End: Crafting a Conclusion that Stays with the Reader Long After the Book Closes”. Until then, let those characters chat away!