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How to Write Dialogue?

A Definitive Guide to Dialogue Writing

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 Jack Morgan   August 31, 2022  Student Guide

How to Write Dialogue?

Dialogues lend life to any narrative. They represent words, emotions, and expressions in text, making content more interactive and appealing. Be it a short story, a play or a novel, dialogues form a crucial aspect of the structure & the story.

Developing distinctive dialogues is, however, not exactly an easy feat. Specific aspects of storytelling, non-verbal/written communication, and human psychology are intrinsic to the craft. As a writer, you must grasp them thoroughly to understand how to write great dialogues.

This article dives deep into the process of writing intriguing dialogues. Read on to learn how to write good dialogues, go through some quality tips to write great dialogues, and examples below!

Why Do We Need Good Dialogues?

Dialogues serve numerous purposes. They take the plot forward, acquaint readers better with a character's nature, and make things much more engaging overall. Powerful dialogues enrich a story, portray confrontations between characters, and can be used as a tool to convey details about the role of different characters.

Good dialogues can be interlaced seamlessly with any narrative. But what does a great dialogue constitute?  

The dialogues we encounter in books and watch in movies & the like are entirely different from conventional conversations —they are the literary or cinematic variant of customary speeches but devoid of blandness and rich in engagement!

The rules of writing exceptional dialogues shed unnecessary civility for fast-paced conversations & conveying information articulately. Watch your favorite movies or series; in almost every case, dialogues are fast-paced and do not waste any words. That is the way to go if you are writing dialogues in fiction or wondering how to formulate dialogue in a short story.

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The Steps to Developing Quality Dialogues

There are no rules set in stone when it comes to writing dialogues. So if you are wondering how to write good dialogue in 6 steps or format dialogues quickly, know that it all depends on your narrative and how well you use dialogues to develop plots & characters and weave it correctly with the rest of the narrative.

Keep the following things in mind while writing dialogues:

  • Dialogues are not regular conversations.
  • They are not to be used to move the narrative forward.
  • Do not use dialogues to set up the other character's following lines.
  • Dialogues are not a mechanism for delivering back-stories.
  • Dialogues and monologues differ substantially.
  • Tags can be helpful, but it's best not to overdo them. For example,saying and asking every time can make dialogues seem amateurish and bland.

And, here are some ESSENTIAL rules of writing distinctive dialogues, whatever the medium.

  • Frame dialogues in terms of the character, not as words spoken.
  • Three essential components of any dialogue are voice, mood, and intent.

Use dialogues to portray different voices, and show the inner aspects of a character's nature. Convey emotions & mood through dialogues to help readers get a peek into the character’s head. And finally, communicate intent & motivation using dialogues.

  • Inject intrigue & mystery into the narrative and add layers to a character using unreliable dialogues.

Crafting quality narrative or conversation writing dialogues is all about conveying the story, plot, & events in a crafty & appealing manner. Think naturally when deciding upon your dialogues and consider how the dialogues contribute to the overall plot AND develop the immediate context.

Next up are some tips for writing great-quality dialogues.

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A Few Solid Dialogue Writing Tips

Writing great dialogues in fiction, a story, or a movie can seem extremely difficult initially. Finding your voice, telling a great story, and understanding how a particular character’s voice should be conveyed— maintaining the right balance can be difficult.

The following tips and strategies can help big time:

  1. Mimic Real Life: There’s no better inspiration for crafting dialogues than the everyday world.
  1. Interlace Dialogues With Narration: Interesting and powerful dialogues can be great, but too much can put the audience off. As your characters engage in dialogues, add descriptions of the environment, the ongoing actions, and other characters.
  1. Use Someone Craftily To Portray Technical Details: When you need your audience to understand something heavily technical, use a layperson-like character and an expert character to relay all the information.
  1. Use Proper Punctuation's: Like in any other content, punctuation also plays a crucial role in dialogue writing. Punctuating dialogues can be vital to immerse your readers in the story.
  1. Use Evocative Dialogue Tags: Do not use any tags. They can make everything seem bland and monotonous. Instead, replace common dialogue tags with interesting ones, preferably with more descriptive verbs.
  1. Read Famous Books, Novels & Screenplays for Inspiration: Read renowned works by famous authors such as Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charles Dickens, and go through screenplays of world-class movies like The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Seven Samurai, etc. to learn directly from the masters. Learning writing dialogues using stellar examples to craft exceptional ones.

Before wrapping up this write-up, let's look at fantastic dialogue writing examples.

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An Example of a Great Dialogue

Here’s a dialogue excerpt from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet.

“How are you?” he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit. “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.”

“How on Earth did you know that?” I asked in astonishment.

“Never mind,” said he, chuckling to himself. “The question now is about haemoglobin. No doubt you see the significance of this discovery of mine?”

“It is interesting, chemically no doubt,” I answered, “but practically-“

"Why, man, it is the most practical medico-legal discovery for years. Don't you see, it gives us an infallible test for blood strains. Come over here now!" He seized me by the coat sleeve in his eagerness and drew me over to the table at which he had been working. "Let us have some fresh blood," he said, digging a long bodkin into his finger and drawing off the resulting drop of blood to a litre of water. The proportion of blood cannot be more than one in a million. I have no doubt, however, that we shall be able to obtain the characteristic reaction." As he spoke, he threw into the vessel a few white crystals and then added some drops of a transparent fluid. In an instant, the contents assumed a dull mahogany colour, and a brownish dust was precipitated to the bottom of the glass jar.

"Ha! Ha!" he cried, clapping his hands and looking as delighted as a child with a new toy. "What did you think of that?"

  • This is a prime example of exciting and naturalistic dialogue, with characters speaking over one another and actions interspersed with speech.
  • Holmes’ intent becomes evident from his words and actions. He refuses to explain anything to Watson and instead chuckles craftily & in a self-absorbed manner.
  • Punctuating the dialogues with actions breaks the monotony and conveys critical aspects of the main character's nature.

And that finally wraps up this write-up. Hope this article on writing dialogues helps you craft deft & distinctive dialogues for every medium.

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