How to Write a Dialogue
Dialogue can be defined as the interaction between two characters on a vocal level. Good dialogue can and should convey mood, information and move the story along.
Confused? Let’s break it down. Here are some things good dialogue should do:
- It should follow some simple grammatical rules. A new paragraph should be started every time a new person is speaking.
- It should be concise. Long, wordy passages of dialogue might seem like a good way to get information across, but they can be tedious for the reader.
- It should communicate character information. Good dialogue lets the reader know something about the person speaking it.
- It should be broken up with action. People don’t typically stop everything when they talk. They fidget. They keep washing the dishes. They pace. Don’t forget that your characters aren’t static.
And here are a few dialogue don’ts:
- Don’t go overboard with backstory. You should never use dialogue to tell the readers things your characters already know.
- Don’t use too much dialogue. Your readers don’t need to know everything your characters say, word-for-word. Dialogue should be chosen carefully.
- Don’t try to be too realistic. Our actual speech wouldn’t make great dialogue. We say “um” and “uh” a lot. We trail off in the middle of sentences. We change subjects without warning. Good dialogue should approximate real speech, not mimic it.
So how can you improve your dialogue?
- Read. Pay attention to what your favorite authors do well, and what they don’t.
- Listen. Pay attention to what natural speech sounds like, and be sure to use those natural rhythms in your writing.
- Read aloud. Read your own dialogue out loud, to yourself or to a friend, to test yourself.
INSPECTOR: What did you do when they asked you to stop?
CAR DRIVER: I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked to see some boulders at a distance. I slowed down the car.
INSPECTOR: And then ……….?
CAR DRIVER: Suddenly one of them pulled out a knife and threatened to kill me if I didn’t stop driving. Then I stopped the car.
INSPECTOR: Then what happened?
CAR DRIVER: One of them caught hold of the lady and the other snatched the chain. They escaped on a bike.
INSPECTOR: Can you identify them if you see them again?
CAR DRIVER: Of course, I can. One was wearing a black shirt and black pants and the other was wearing a striped shirt and a dhoti.
He had a thick moustache too.
INSPECTOR: OK, you can go now and you may have to come here
Whenever you are summoned.
CAR DRIVER: Yes, Sir.
Naveen: Hello, I am Naveen calling from Tirunagar. Is it the SPCA?
Voice: Yes, what can I do for you?
Naveen: I’ve already informed you about the stray dogs in my neighborhood. I’m afraid I’ve got a complaint to make.
Voice: What’s it?
Naveen: I’m sorry to say this, but these dogs are stoned and ill-treated by some children of our neighborhood.
Voice: Could you tell me where you live?
Naveen: I live in Bharathi Street, Tirunagar, and Madurai. Could you please come and take them away immediately?
Voice: Definitely. We’ll come in an hour.
Naveen: Thank you!