Have you ever wondered what they keys to writing good dialogue are? Here are some things I have learned about it during my years of writing and am still learning to perfect.

It’s not what is said that counts. It’s the meaning behind it.

Take a minute and let that sink in. The meaning behind it. I know, some of you are probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about, right? Let me break it down for you.

When you’re talking to your friends, you talk right? But what do you feel? Therein lies the first secret to good dialogue – emotion.

For example:

“Hey Eva, how are you?”

“Oh, I’m fine.”

What does Eva’s reply tell us? Anybody?

“Oh,” usually means someone is distracted. But, why is she distracted? What is bothering her? Is someone ill? Is she upset?

It can also mean she is ignoring the person. But why? Is she angry with them? Does she not like them?

“Oh” can also denote sarcasm. “Oh, it’s you again.” That doesn’t sound very friendly now does is?

One simple word can have a variety of meanings, and bring to mind a dozen different questions and possibilities. The context in how it used, will show us the emotion behind it.

The emotions behind what is said, can tell a reader everything they need to know. Pretty awesome huh?

Now for my second tip. Speech markers. I’ve discovered that this is one all important key to giving each character a unique voice. So what are speech markers? Things like:

Vocabulary- which can be polysyllabic words {such as intricate, oxymoron, ect.} or professional jargon. {such as interpersonal relationships, instead of relationships, ect.}

Throwaway words and phrases- things like actually, basically, perhaps, you see, I dare say, I don’t think you see, it occurs to me, ect. Thing like this usually are only used in dialogue to show a character’s specific speech markers. Otherwise they are just wordage and of no real value.

Tight wording- such as beat it, scram, ect.

Loose wording- such as I wish you would go away and leave me alone, ect.

Sarcasm can be a speech marker as well. So can poor grammar and even omitted words. Believe it or not, run-on sentences can also be a speech marker. But only for one character. Too many characters with run-ons can get confusing, fast. So try to limit that to say the chatty character.

Such simple things can drastically improve the dialogue of any story, and will help to give each character a unique voice, without even having to resort to giving them accents. Amazing isn’t it? Now to continue practicing it myself. I’m not an expert. I never claimed to be one. Like all of you, I’m still learning as I go, through trial and error mostly.

Another secret to good dialogue is to cut out the echoes of the question. What do I mean by that? Look at the example below and I will bold the echoes found in regular speech.

Example one:

“Hot out today, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it’s very hot out today.”

“Want to grab a bite to eat?”

“Sure, I’d love to grab a bite to eat.

See how the second person repeats what was asked each time?” Now let’s see that written as dialogue, shall we?

Example Two:

“Hot out today, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, very.”

“Want to grab a bite to eat?”

“I’d love to.”

Talking is full of echos. Dialogue shouldn’t have any echos. It allows for tighter writing and sounds better to me. What about you?

What are some of the neat things you have learned about writing dialogue? Feel free to share them in comments below. Come on now, don’t be shy. You know you want to.

Reference material is Stein On Writing by Sol Stein. A great book for any writer who longs to hone or improve their craft. It was recommended to me by one of the people from my crit groups and I highly recommend it to all of my fellow writers. There is a variable treasure trove of information out there, if you’re willing to look hard enough.

P.S. For those interested this blog will update on Fridays. This article appears in a writer/editor collaboration full of writer goodies here: http://thirdsundaybc.com/2012/02/19/vol-1-no-2/

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About kittyb78

Catrina Barton is a licensed Kung-Fu Instructor of the Black Dragon style, and draws on that experience to make her fight scenes both realistic and action packed. She enjoys being surrounded by the stark beauty of mother nature. Whether it's a moon-lit starry sky, or a picnic by a peaceful waterfall cascading from the mountain side. Growing up no matter where she was physically, she always had at least one book in her hands and spent every free moment lost in a book. It's only natural that as she grew up, her passion for reading grew into an even stronger passion for writing, especially Young Adult Paranormal Romances. She is a proud member of many writing and marketing groups, and an active participant at Critique Circle and several other crit groups. Favorite personal quote: "An author cannot grow without both constructive criticism and encouragement."

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  1. […] Barton presents Dialogue posted at Kitty’s Inner Thoughts, saying, “This particular post talks about some neat […]

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