Great dialogue in a novel or screenplay is very different from ordinary conversation. In real conversations, people chatter endlessly and often boringly about nothing. But that’s not something you want to include in your novel!
Dialogue in your novel is a form of conflict. As with all conflict, it serves one of two purposes. I should either advance the plot, or develop the characters. If it doesn’t, you can cut it.
It’s also important that your dialogue sounds like someone said it, not like it was polished in a word processor. Here are a few ways to make your dialogue seem more real:
- Eliminate long speeches. Use quick back-and-forth exchanges.
- People don’t talk in long, complex sentences. In fact, they rarely complete a sentence at all.
- Avoid information dumps; people rarely converse about things they both already know. It usually requires a question to elicit a statement.
- People rarely say the other person’s name in a conversation and almost never more than once.
- Use lots of interruptions and pauses. Conversations aren’t continuous. Silence is important.
I’ve prepared a five-page summary of good dialogue techniques and some exercises to let you practice improving some horrible dialogue from a very popular best seller! You can download your free copy here: Dialogue Exercises
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