You would be surprised how often people get confused on writing dialogue. To be fair, it isn’t easy. Not everyone uses the same amount or the same structure. You have a variation of tags and tactics when it comes to dialogue. Don’t even get me started on the long paragraphs of one character speaking that you have to figure out how to break up or throw in some action parts to reveal he or she is doing more than jabbering away without moving. So, I’m going to give some suggestions on how to freshen up your dialogue . . . That or I’m about to make it worse.
- If you have two characters going back and forth, you can eventually stop using the tags altogether. At least for this conversation, you can go without signifying who is talking because the reader has realized there are only two people. Large chunks of conversation might be tougher to do, but comedic banter can be done this way since it’s supposed to fast. Just don’t throw in a third person with no warning and then wonder why people are angry.
- Do NOT forget punctuation. You might know somebody who speaks so quickly that it’s like they’ve been keeping the same run-on sentence for years. That doesn’t mean people can understand what is being said. Your characters might pass out from lack of breathing too.
- Try not to repeat the same piece of information. If most of the characters weren’t around for the reveal then don’t have them learn one at a time. Call a meeting or let them figure it out on their own at a climactic moment. Doing otherwise leads to a population of boring, repetitive dialogues that people will remember more than the witty lines you’ve peppered your manuscript with.
- Stop reusing the same power phrase every few pages. I know you want a tagline to put on a poster, coffee mug, t-shirt, adult diaper, or whatever swag you plan on giving out at the book signing. You know that friend who will respond with ‘I am Groot’ or ‘I am Batman’ every time you say hello, so you no longer get any enjoyment from those phrases? Yeah, don’t do that as the author. Even the best line can lose its charm if you hear it too often, so use it sparingly.
- When writing dialogue, try saying it out loud to see if it makes sense. Your ears can be better judges than your eyes when it comes to speaking parts. Just be warned that you don’t want to attempt your villain’s threatening speech in the middle of the produce section. It may lead to you getting first pick of the fresh bananas because people are staying away from you, but good luck getting help at the nearby deli counter.
- If you want to put accents into your dialogues then you need to research them. Listen to people speak with it and make note of how it sounds. Try to find other books that have used them because punctuation and slang is very important here. You don’t want to declare that you’re using a Boston accent when it’s really a mutant hybrid of Welsh, German, and the sound you make when you get your hair caught in the car door.
- Don’t forget the non-verbal parts of dialogue. Human communication is more about body language and voice tone than the words we use. I could say ‘Welcome home’, but my tone can be the difference between genuine, sarcastic, and threatening. You can accomplish this by adding words near the tag to denote emotions such as ‘angrily says’ or ‘dryly mentions’. I know these aren’t popular for some reason, but they can really help here. Having the character sigh, roll their eyes, cross their arms, and do other physical activities help lock down their temperaments too.