If you’re writing a fiction piece with multiple characters, dialogue scenes are inevitable. It can be extremely difficult to make these scenes sound natural to your reader! Here are 3 super simple ways to improve your dialogue.
In any fiction piece with two or more characters, dialogue scenes are an unavoidable part of life. If you want your story to have any sort of interaction between characters, they’re going to have a conversation or two. Unfortunately, for many writers, writing dialogue scenes can be almost impossible! There are so many nuances to speech and conversation that can be easily forgotten when writing them out. I always try to do these three things whenever I write dialogue scenes.
#1 Study Dialogue With Your Friends
I always try to remember a recent conversation with a friend right before I write dialogue. There are patterns in speech and mannerisms that accompany them. If I have the time, I write down the conversation we had as if we were being described by an author. It also helps to compare dialogue between yourself and someone you don’t know as well to dialogue with your best friend. You may be comfortable talking over your best friend because you’ve known them for so long, but you likely wouldn’t do that when talking to a new acquaintance. Your characters will do the same.
#2 Understand That Dialogue Can Reveal Parts of the Plot, But it Must Do So Naturally
One of my biggest pet peeves when reading other people’s work is the fact that they vomit details at the reader. It’s extremely obvious when you’re just using dialogue to describe a character or further the plot, and even more so when that dialogue could have been summed up in a couple of sentences. Your readers want real, believable dialogue scenes that will enrich what they’re imagining. If the dialogue makes your reader feel like the conversation between characters is like two robots, you aren’t doing your job.
For example, let’s say you have three details you need to work in a conversation. You want to introduce a character named Sarah, who is tall, brunette, and has green eyes. She’s recently put in for a promotion at a company she’s only been a part of for a month. So, you have two other characters having a conversation about this over their break. Compare these two blocks of dialogue:
“Oh, you mean Sarah? The tall brunette, with green eyes? Sarah just put in for a promotion. She’s only been here for a month.”
“Oh, you mean Sarah?”
“Yes! The tall brunette- green eyes?”
“Did you hear she’s already trying for a promotion?”
“And only a month in! Who does she think she is? Hopefully the boss will cut her down real quick.”
Both of these scenes convey the same detail, however, the second one feels more like a conversation you’d have with a friend. That’s without the addition of descriptors- imagine how much greater that scene would be if you could imagine the way character 1 introduced the topic, or how character 2 sneered when she said “And only a month in!”
#3 Recruit Your Friends to Act Scenes Out
If you have a willing friend, recruit them to act out your dialogue scenes and see how believable they are. Chances are, just by acting the conversation out, you’ll feel where things start to get unnatural and robotic. For an even better outcome, record the scenes and see the way you and your friend reacted to the lines. Were they smiling when they said something or were their eyes downcast? Did your pitch change when certain lines were read or was it monotone? Little details like this can add so much to your dialogue scenes. Be sure to add them in to break up walls of dialogue and flesh out the scene for your reader.
I also like to do a slightly different variation of this tip. I will come up with the details or plot devices that need to be conveyed in the scenes. Then, I’ll recruit my friend and ask them to create a conversation around it. This can be much more difficult, but it can create some of the most realistic dialogue ever. You’ll probably have really robotic-sounding dialogue the first couple times through, but my best work comes from the third take and onward. Plus, you’ll already have an idea of how not to write those scenes from your failed attempts.
The only way you can improve is to write dialogue scenes more often, and learn from your mistakes. Practice by writing dialogue scenes for random pictures you find, or imagine how an author would describe a conversation between you and someone else. Whatever you do, don’t give up just because writing dialogue scenes seem hard!