When written effectively, dialogue is a powerful tool that can advance your story’s plot, create tension, establish conflict, and develop character. Good dialogue also eliminates unnecessary exposition—too much “tell” and not enough “show”—that will drag a story down and lose readers. At Writer’s Relief, we know a few tricks and exercises that will help you write engaging, believable dialogue.
How To Write Believable Dialogue For Your Story
Here’s a simple way to improve your dialogue skills: Be nosy. The term “eavesdropping” is derived from standing under the eaves of a house and listening to a conversation going on inside. And though we are definitely not recommending you lurk outside your neighbors’ homes to pick up dialogue, you can overhear some great conversations while sitting in a park or coffee shop or even on a bus ride. Listening in on conversations and writing down what you hear will help you write more natural-sounding dialogue—a real-life conversation is quite different from a written, imagined version. By taking snippets of real conversations and using a few basic do’s and don’ts, you’ll soon be writing better dialogue.
Watch A Silent Film And Add Dialogue
While silent films have title cards summarizing what you’re seeing onscreen, they don’t capture every word the actors are saying. What kind of verbal exchange were Edna Purviance and Charlie Chaplin having as they skated around The Rink? Were they planning a bank robbery or planning to elope? Translate their actions and facial expressions into conversation. This is a great exercise to help you eliminate unnecessary emotional tags that often weigh dialogue down. Here’s where you can find silent films to use in this writing exercise. You can also simply turn off the sound on any movie and write your own dialogue for the scenes.
Rewrite A Narrative Scene Using Only Dialogue
Take a scene in your story that’s currently narrative and recreate it with dialogue only. Screenwriters excel at this practice and understand the importance of using dialogue to reveal the essence of a character. A college professor speaks differently than a hipster coffee shop barista. And a New England fishing boat captain might have the same fishy things to talk about as a Louisiana shrimp boat captain, but if the dialogue is well done, you should be able to tell who is who just by what is said and how.
Learning how to write like a screenwriter will improve your dialogue skills and make it easier for you to edit out needless adjectives and adverbs. For screenwriting tips you can incorporate into your dialogue writing, check out Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.
Create Dialogue For Photographs
Many writers use photographs to inspire their stories, but you can also use them in an exercise to enhance your dialogue techniques. Write the dialogue you imagine is happening in the photo. You can use family photos or pictures you find in a magazine, book, or at an antique shop. It’s easier if there are two or more subjects in the photograph, but if you have an image with only one person, get creative! That one person could be talking to someone outside of the photo’s frame—or to someone otherworldly and invisible. You’ll not only develop better dialogue skills, but you may also come up with new story ideas!
Practice With Writing Prompts
With writing prompts, you can focus solely on writing dialogue and not worry about plot, setting, or any other story elements. You can concentrate on the exchange between characters (or the toaster and the television if that’s your thing). Here are 70 dialogue writing prompts you can try!
Stories that feature well-written, interesting dialogue will keep your readers turning pages until the very end. And when a literary editor finds a short story submission that effectively engages readers with a great plot and dialogue—that writing is destined for publication!
Question: What do you find most difficult about writing dialogue?