The very idea of writing character dialogue makes some writers break into a cold sweat. Yet creating realistic dialogue is a problem that many writers face. It isn’t easy as it seems. There is a disconnect between the way that we speak and the way that we write. The trick is to teach ourselves to write more like we speak, when creating dialogue. The following are some basic ideas to help speculative fiction authors write more realistic dialogue within their stories:
–Observe other people. Sure, mama always told you that eavesdropping isn’t polite, but there’s a world of difference between being nosy and doing research. Sneaking around to overhear a private conversation and sitting down in a public place to listen to snatches of random conversation as people stroll by are two entirely different things. The best way to learn how people naturally speak is to observe them firsthand, so pick a place with lots of traffic and don’t forget to take a pen and a notebook with you to record your data!
–Let it flow naturally. Sometimes the harder we try, the more stilted and unrealistic dialogue becomes. Instead of agonizing over “just the right words,” let your characters comment on events in their own words. Few people speak with perfect grammar, so why force your characters to speak that way? You can always make minor adjustments later–just don’t edit away the essence of your character’s voice in the process!
–Don’t information dump. While dialogue is a good way to deliver important information without forcing your reader to wade through large chunks of exposition, be careful not to reveal too much information at once. Reveal only that which is necessary for the reader to know at a particular point in the story; this keeps the mystery alive and heightens suspense. An author’s audience doesn’t need extraneous details to confuse them while they read, nor do they need to be reminded of details already revealed. Readers like to put things together for themselves, so don’t spoil the opportunity for them!
–Intersperse dialogue with action. Reading large chunks of dialogue bores readers, and it simply isn’t realistic for characters to remain still while speaking. Break up your dialogue with physical details to emphasize a character’s reaction to what is being said, or to highlight particularly important pieces of information. Not only will it enhance your story’s dialogue, it will make your characters and your world more textured.
For more information on crafting better dialogue, please visit the writing reference section of any St. Louis area Borders or Barnes & Noble.