In my courses, I usually encounter two types of writers: the ones who hardly ever write dialogue, and the other, rarer ones who can’t stop writing dialogue. The latter usually need fine-tuning, a lot of stroking. The former often need a push and then some practice.
In any case, you can learn to write good dialogs! So the knot bursts and finally it runs smoothly with the dialogue writing.
Writing dialogs made easy
In my courses, I usually encounter two types of writers: the ones who hardly dare to write dialogue, and the other, rarer ones, who can’t stop writing dialogue. The latter usually need fine-tuning, a lot of deleting. The former often need a push and then some practice. Then the knot bursts and finally it runs also with the dialogue writing.
No matter what type you are, I hope there’s something for everyone in my 10 tips.
What is dialog?
Dialog, even direct or literal speech is what someone says when they are talking to someone else. So you need an interlocutor for a dialogue, otherwise it’s a Monologue (someone talks to himself). A monologue can also be written in quotation marks like a dialog – BUT only if it is also spoken out loud becomes. Are it only Thoughts, so a inner monologue, can be written in italics or a thought I/he/she insert so that the reader can follow.
Indirect speech on the other hand is something like a report of a dialogue. Indirect speech example:
He asked her if she would go out with him. But she replied lappishly that she already had a boyfriend and her fridge was full besides.
(You see, here the subjunctive is used with would have/would be used and it reads rather bulky.)
A narrative summary of a dialogue would read like this:
He had asked her if she would go out to dinner with him. But she had answered him lappishly that she already had a boyfriend and also a full refrigerator.
But now on to the 10 dialogue tips:
10 tips to write good dialogues
Dialogue, i.e., literal speech, takes place when two or more people or characters speak to each other. characters talking to each other. So far, so clear. But writing dialogue in a novel usually means you’re not writing a faithful rendition of "real" dialogue. Dialogues in novels are artificial respectively. Art. So what can you keep in mind to write these dialogues true to life, but also meaningful and easy to read? Because the goal is to entertain the reader and not to write a boring report.
1. Writing dialogue with special character language
How sad it would be if in your dialogue all your characters accidentally sound like yourself? Unfortunately, this often happens.
You must have good Constructing characters for your novel. Make sure your main character speaks exactly as only he or she can speak. How would you recognize her if you could just read the dialogue text without knowing that she just talked? Does she have favorite words? What is her vocabulary? Does she escape a lot?
Are there certain sentence structures that are typical for them? Does she constantly interrupt others or herself? What about pronunciation, intonation or accents?? Maybe she even stutters?
But please remember not to overdo it. Otherwise, the dialogue quickly seems overdone and is no longer easy to read. But a way of speaking, which is characteristic for your characters, is for your story like salt for the soup! Don’t leave it out!
2. Characterize characters
Good dialogue characterizes the characters
Just as your character should be recognizable by her particular way of speaking, it should also reveal something about the character – preferably in a way that you don’t have to mention it much in your story at all. What region is your character from? From which millieu? Is she educated? Arm? Introverted or a go-getter?
Same statement, different speaker:
"Yo, throw over man!" vs.
"Would you please pass the salt?"
Of course that is exaggerated, But hopefully makes it clear that you can already tell an incredible amount about the character from their word choice. Use this!
3. Dialect u.a.
Dialogue the way the beak grew
Reading a dialogue as it occurs in real life would be very exhausting. Constant slurring of words, unfinished sentences, falling into words, lots of colloquial language .
Written dialogue should sound natural, but it is always an art form. The most important thing is that the reader does not fall out of the reading flow. For example, if a character speaks English, you would have to continue writing in English. But your reader is reading a German novel. Makes no sense then.
You can solve this by inserting only one or two English words, but then continue writing in German. But you can also explain that your character is answering in English. You can also do this with dialect.
"Wonderful!", she answered in English. "I will never forget this trip!
"Ne, ne. With us you put on slippers. The dirty appelkahne there stay nicely outside!"She pointed to Friederike’s well-worn shoes and then to the landing in front of the front door.
How to write a dialogue?
Even though novel writing rarely has anything to do with what we once learned in school, when it comes to punctuation, what we learned is then important. But, oh dear, then there was the spelling reform and since then everyone is something else. So that there is no more uncertainty, here is the correct spelling. It’s worthwhile to internalize the correct spelling. Then you have to correct much less later.
Writing dialogue example:
Each new speaker gets a new line.
"Hello," he said.
"How are you?", she asked.
"I am fine."
"I’m fine too," she replied.
WrongI’m fine too.", she replied.
Dot, exclamation mark and question mark are inside the quotation marks. The comma follows the quotation marks and before asked/said/answered etc.!
When followed by "he/she said", must put a comma after the quotation marks. This also applies when an exclamation mark or question mark appears in the dialogue. But be careful: you only put a period at the end of spoken words if asked/said/answered etc. not follows.
Check whether the speaker of the line of dialog is clearly identifiable. If not, mention him by name.
"Hello", said Matthias.
Or even better:
"Hello." Matthias raised his hand in greeting. But more about that under point 10 "Stage action"
Do not use the names of the characters too often! Provided it is clear who is using "they" is meant, use only "she. It’s a typical mistake I see again and again. Too many names create a greater distance to the reader and the reader can no longer easily put himself in the character’s place.
And use paraphrases like the daughter, the wife, the girl, the lad, the boy, etc. even less often.!
5. goodbye school!
Writing dialogues with said, asked, answered, replied
This brings us to one of the most common problems I know:
I had already mentioned the school. What you learn there is not always useful for writing a novel. So also the exercise to use as different "inquit formulas" as possible. What is meant is that you use many verb variants of said and asked, such as whispered, shouted, chattered, hissed, etc.
But that’s total nonsense for your novel!
Writing dialogue in a novel means not trying to prove how well you can express yourself. It’s all about engaging the reader and pulling them into the story. This means that in most cases he does not need to know, like something was said, but what!
It’s not boring, often "said" to use. You don’t have to add variety here for the reader! The great thing about "said," "asked," "answered," "replied" is that you read over it and continue to concentrate on the subject at hand, what was said.
Of course, there are some cases where it makes sense to focus on the how. For example, someone yelling out when they should be quiet, or talking in a surprisingly squeaky way even though they’re a muscleman.
If you don’t believe it, count how many times "said" appears on two or three pages in popular novels. If you still don’t like to write "said" so often, wait for point 10.
And another dialogue tip on the side: you can’t smile or laugh a little, these are not verbs of saying.
Wrong: "That’s sweet", she smiled.
Correctly: "That’s very nice." She smiled.
Subtext for good dialogues
Subtext is what is between the lines. That is, what is meant, but not said. A great way to manipulate characters, but also to create misunderstandings and complications.
Subtext examples are something like:
"Don’t you think it’s a drag here??"
Formally, the statement: I think it pulls. And the question: you too?
But the subtext could be, "Close the window, please.".
Other subtext example:
"I’m going for a walk now." Clear statement.
The subtext could be: "Your last chance to come along"! Come on, change your mind and come with us!"
Subtexts are also wonderful to observe during interrogations in detective stories. In the classic, the subtext is sometimes spoken by the interrogated:
"Where were you on Friday at 13.00 o’clock?"
"How, am I a suspect now?? Do you suspect me?"
Here the interviewee interprets subtext into the question and thus sees himself as a suspect.
In romance novels, dialogue with subtext can lead nicely to complications, because what was said by means of subtext unfortunately didn’t reach the receiver.
Subtext enriches dialogues immensely, makes them exciting and spicy.
Subtext exerciseTry to be aware in novels and also in movies, what is the statement in a dialog and what was actually meant.
Also like to check dialogue you’ve already written to see if you’re using subtext.
You can practice subtext by thinking ahead of time what your character "actually" means wants, but why she doesn’t address it directly. Often someone thinks they’ve already said what they want, even though it’s only implied. According to the motto "that’s what I said, isn’t it?!" (but actually that’s what she meant, not what she said!). So what does your character want and how does she finally say it??
7. Drama, baby!
Good dialogs have a goal and conflict
"Good morning." His grin hung coldly on his face.
"Tomorrow."She should have climbed out the bathroom window. Why had she come down? But she already knew the answer. She still couldn’t believe what had happened yesterday.
"Do you like an egg?"
She held her breath. "Today rather not. Thank you", she pressed out. He knew that she was highly allergic to chicken egg white. Now she was sure; she had better have fled out the bathroom window.
Oh, by the way, by conflict I don’t necessarily mean World War III or a death threat. A conflict is a goal with obstacles. So always ask yourself, what is your character’s goal here and what is standing in their way. Then you find also completely simply the conflicts.
No boring repartee, but move the plot forward
This brings us to the 8th point. Point that could also be called: Delete any superfluous dialog.
How do you recognize superfluous dialogue?? Scratch it (haha) and you’ll know! If nothing is missing, it remains deleted. If something is missing, still ask yourself if you really need the dialogue or if a summary would be better.
Instead of a mile-long repartee in which two characters try to find a date, you can write succinctly: It took a solid hour for Melanie to finally give in and agree to an appointment on Thursday.
A conflict would even be present, but the dialog about finding a date would not have advanced the plot. But good dialogue always should! (Ok., sometimes dialogue may characterize or entertain only one character, if it is funny.)
To write really interesting dialogue, you need to make sure that the dialogue is always related to your story and keeps it moving. If your story is about solving a murder, then the dialogue shouldn’t be about the six-year-old detective’s swimming lessons. Unless it is a tactic of the detective and has something to do with the case.
Dialogue brings variety and liveliness to a text. However, avoid page-long repartee and insert some narrative text now and then.
I also find the quote from Elke Bockamp in the interview on 1 very nice. Online writers’ fair, with the theme "Writing interesting dialogue:
9. Packing info
Don’t put infowaste in the dialogue!
Please, never use dialogue thoughtlessly to convey information to the reader. In most cases it looks totally unnatural and the reader senses the author’s intention. With it the whole reading pleasure is in the bucket.
That reads something like an American infomercial.
Here’s an example of bad dialogue:
"Oh look Wiebke. When I pull the lever here, a wheel moves up there."
"Wow Richard, that’s exciting!"
"Wiebke, there, there! Now the strap loosens!"
"But!" (Ok., I exaggerate ;-))
If the reader absolutely needs to know how the machine works for the story to progress, either wrap the topic in conflict or summarize it.
You could create a conflict if you let Richard try to explain the machine to his boss because his job depends on it. He was able to improve it, but his boss didn’t understand that yet. His boss, on the other hand, thinks Richard is to blame for slow production.
A summary, on the other hand, might read like this: Richard operated the lever as he does every morning. The machine rattled off, the gear loosened the belt and started production. Richard knew every mechanism inside the box by heart. .
10. The supreme discipline
The stage action for the perfect dialogue
Now my absolute favorite tip.
Somewhat concise: When you’re writing a screenplay, you’re writing almost nothing but dialogue. But the audience will see much more, namely also the stage set and especially the actor’s action – that’s what I call the "stage action". These are all things that, as a novelist, you put into your story write must, so that the "Kopfkino" starts at the reader. Maybe that seems elaborate to you now, but that’s exactly one of the appeals of writing a novel, isn’t it?? Besides you can still use it for the supreme discipline in dialog writing using:
Don’t write who says something (he said), but show what they do!
So you save the eternal "said" and show the reader right away what happens where. Automatically, the reader also knows who has just spoken.
Tatata! The perfect solution!
A dialog example pleases?
"Where is the bitch?", Sabine asked and rummaged through her handbag.
"Now take it easy!", Anton replied and rolled himself a cigarette.
Sabine rummaged through her handbag for the car key. "Where is the bitch?"
"Now take it easy!" Anton leaned against the car and started to roll a cigarette.
Not a prize-winning text, but you see that you can get by without verbs of saying at all if you let the characters act and insert that before or after what is said. So you kill many birds with only one stone! Wonderful!
Dialogue exercise: Cross out the verbs of saying and add action (if you don’t already have it in there anyway).
These were the 10 most important tips to write good dialogues.
Pick one tip at a time and start checking and revising your existing dialogue. Then it will soon be easy for you to write really good dialog.
If you like, here comes another one .
Exercise writing dialogs
Examine the dialogue in your favorite books. How did the authors solve it there? Do you like that? If so, why? Feel free to find a novel in which you didn’t like the dialogue. What was it?
You can also watch movies and examine the dialogue in them. What is said, what is really meant? So what is the subtext? And what is not said, but represented by the actors (so what would you have to write to the dialogue)?
Film example – super examples for good dialogues
One of my favorite movies is "Of lions and lambs". You’re guaranteed to find good dialogue examples here!
Both in terms of content I appreciate the movie very much, but especially in terms of dialog I am fascinated. There are three narrative threads and only one involves movie-type "action". The other two take place 90% of the time in one room each. One time a professor and a student sit across from each other in a mini-office, the other time a journalist and a senator in the senator’s office. And then there is talking! And talked! And talked about! And I am captivated every time! Fascinated! Caught!
Definitely worth watching! And great for examining dialogues.
Good luck with your dialogs,
Do you have questions? To which type of writing do you belong? If you find it easy to start with the dialogue, you might even write too much? Or do you need a little start? And do the tips here in the article help you? Write me a comment here!
P.S.What else you can look out for to be able to write a really good novel, you will find out here, when it comes to the Create head cinema for the reader goes.
10 tips for writing really good dialogue
Dialogue, i.e. literal speech, takes place when two or more people or. Characters talking to each other. So far, so clear. But when you write dialogue for your novel, it’s usually not a faithful rendering of "real" dialogue. It is artificial resp. Art. So what can you keep in mind to write these dialogues in a meaningful and readable way?