Dialogue Tips for Writers

I’m ecstatic to present to all of you a guest post, written by the talented Sherry Soule.  Also, there is good advice here on a topic I myself struggle with from time to time.

Dialogue Tips for Fiction Writers

Writing realistic dialogue does not come easily to everyone. Done well, dialogue advances the story and fleshes out the characters while providing a break from straight explanation.

However, just as realistic dialogue is one of the most powerful tools at a writer’s disposal, nothing pulls the reader out of a story faster than bad dialogue or poorly written dialogue with a lot of he said / she said. Veering too much beyond, “he said/she said” only draws attention to the tags and you want the reader’s attention centered on your brilliant dialogue, not your ability to think of synonyms for “said.”

It should not be obvious to the reader that they’re being fed important facts. Let the story unfold naturally. You don’t have to tell the reader everything up front, and you can trust him or her to remember details from earlier in the story.

Using descriptive tags instead can also reveal a character’s appearance—what a character wears, her physical characteristics, or even body language. Remember, real people do not just sit and have a conversation—they lean forward, cross their arms, scratch their head, and run their fingers through their hair.

Dialogue needs tension, conflict and emotion. Too many dialogue tags murder the pace and flow of a conversation, and often smack of author intrusion. A reader will pick-up on it and get irritated.

Remove most of the tags and all tags with a “ly” adverb, and then rewrite the dialogue with action or descriptive tags IF needed. If the dialogue is strong enough, you’ll only need a few well-placed “said” tags. Unlike other tags, “said” is generally invisible to readers. And please don’t use a verb used to describe an expression and then try to force it into becoming a dialogue tag. It won’t work. People don’t grimace, grin, smile, laugh, sneer, or frown their dialogue.

For example:  He laughed, “Go away.” Or “You’ll die tonight,” John sneered.

For more tips on what to avid, please visit this post on my blog:

http://fictionwritingtools.blogspot.com/2010/11/english-alternatives-to-abused-words.html

Author Bio:

Sherry Soule is the bestselling author of the acclaimed YA Spellbound series. She writes urban fantasy, an odd hybrid of the horror genre that includes elements of mystery, romance, fantasy, and suspense for teens and adults. Right now, she’s working on a few different young adult series: Spellbound and Tales of a Teenage Succubus. Plus, an adult novel, Immortal Eclipse coming soon.

Places you can cyberstalk Sherry Soule:

Official Blog: http://www.sherrysoule.blogspot.com

Twitter @WriterSherry: http://twitter.com/writersherry

goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11634793-beautifully-broken

10 thoughts on “Dialogue Tips for Writers

  1. Very good advice, thank you! I cringe every time I encounter in a published book some of the negative examples given above. And often there are too many…

    Happy New Year, Paul!

  2. Pingback: 10 Tips on Dialogue (Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, part 1) « Britt Alder

  3. Pingback: Guest post: Thinking About Dialogue, by Holly Kench | Emily's Tea Leaves

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