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Writing Good Dialogue

Five useful hints for writing good dialogue


1. Make it purposeful: Dialogue should serve a purpose in your story, whether it reveals information, develops characters, advances the plot, or creates tension. Each line of dialogue should contribute to the overall narrative and be essential to the scene or the story as a whole. Avoid including dialogue just for the sake of filling space.


2. Keep it realistic but concise: Dialogue should sound natural and authentic, but it should also be concise and to the point. People in real life often speak in fragments or use colloquial language, but in writing, it's important to trim unnecessary elements and focus on conveying meaning effectively. Avoid excessive repetition, irrelevant tangents, or overly long speeches.


3. Show, don't tell: Dialogue is an opportunity to show emotions, conflicts, and relationships between characters. Instead of explicitly stating how a character feels, use dialogue to reveal their emotions indirectly through their words, tone, and body language. Subtext and implications can add depth and intrigue to your conversations, allowing readers to interpret the underlying meanings.


4. Differentiate voices and styles: Each character should have a distinctive voice and speaking style that reflects their personality, background, and motivations. Consider their education level, culture, age, and social status, among other factors. Vary the vocabulary, syntax, rhythm, and speech patterns of your characters to make their voices unique. This differentiation helps readers easily identify who is speaking without dialogue tags.


5. Use dialogue tags and beats effectively: Dialogue tags (e.g., "he said," "she asked") and beats (descriptions of characters' actions during a conversation) provide clarity and help readers follow the flow of dialogue. However, it's best to use them sparingly and focus on strong dialogue that stands on its own. Instead of repeatedly using tags like "said" or "asked," consider using descriptive verbs, gestures, or facial expressions to add depth and make the dialogue more engaging.


Remember, practice and revision are key to improving your dialogue writing skills. Experiment with different approaches, read examples from renowned authors, and seek feedback from beta readers or writing groups to refine your dialogue and make it truly shine in your novel.

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