Writing Realistic Dialogue

One of the most important things in your book is the dialogue, the exchange between characters. If you mess this up, you’ll endanger your whole entire plot. You can have an awesome storyline, but if the dialogue stinks… Sorry, but that book just got tossed down the toilet.

(books don’t fit down toilets?)

I struggle with dialogue, everyone struggles with dialogue. So don’t think you’re a strange anomaly that no one has ever seen before. Don’t feel bad about yourself. The only way you’re going to make this work is if you’re confident about your writing.

First, before I give you a few things you can use as guidelines, I need to make sure you understand your characters. Each character has a specific way of speaking; one of them might have an accent, another might enjoy sounding like a puffed up professor by saying “indubitably” five times in a row, and the other might talk like a hippie.

Or whatever.

It doesn’t matter what type of character you have, you just need to understand how that character would sound if he/she spoke to you in real life. If you can’t get that down, your dialogue will suffer.

So, assuming that you actually followed through with this WONDERFUL advice instead of just reading it, nodding your head, and saying, “Oh, yeah, totally gonna do that,”, let’s move on to things you get to check off.



Here you go:

  1. Does each snippet of dialogue have a simple distinct character/flair about it? You need to make sure that your dialogue has elements that real human conversation contains. If you’re adding complicated innuendos and weird twists of words that are really hard to read, then drop it. It’s supposed to be SIMPLE. If you can’t ever imagine someone saying that, then it’s not going to work.
  2. Is your dialogue smooth when read aloud? This is a foolproof test for dialogue. After you’ve written your conversation with each characters’ style, read it aloud. Read it in your bathroom, your closet, to your cat, it doesn’t matter. You need to hear what it sounds like. If it flows smoothly and if it sounds like something you could hear in the mall then GOOD JOB!! YAY!! YOU GET A GOLD MEDAL!! WELL DONE!! HURRAY! If it’s not… *awkward silence*
  3. Did you eliminate stiff and unrealistic phrases? Now don’t read this the wrong way. If you’re writing a mid-seventeenth century novel, then yes, your dialogue is going to sound way different. But this doesn’t mean you can’t still make it sound realistic. People were still people back then, and they stuttered and used filler words and messed up. Not EVERYONE uttered beautifully scripted speeches and unknown vocabulary words in their conversations.
  4. Did you avoid revealing unrealistic facts? Face it, nobody goes up to their date and says, “Oh yes, my dear, I do remember when we first met: we sat by the river and watched the water, while your little sister played by the stream. Then we ate hot dogs and you mother said ‘Don’t choke and die!’ and then I…” You get the picture. You don’t want to give the WHOLE ENTIRE BACKSTORY in one piece of conversation. People don’t do that in real life, and it’s just bad writing. Yes, you can reveal information, but don’t give up a scene in conversation if it’s something you can write that will emotionally connect your audiences.
  5. Try mouthing along when you write. This is just a little free tip. Sometimes what helps me is just mouthing along when I write it. This usually results in more straightforward and human conversations. I don’t know, it might work for you, it might not. I encourage you to try it out!

Okay, that’s about it, just 5 little checkmarks you can make after you write dialogue. Believe me, do not underestimate your dialogue. The impact conversation has on a book is enormous. Imagine what would happen to our world if our conversations were eliminated or incoherent. Dialogue and every day conversations make our lives full of color and diversity. Add that to your book, and you might just capture a bit of our world into your pages.

-Julia H.


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