10 Tips To Make Your Dialogues Memorable
Writing a story is like running a marathon. You spend days and hours preparing for it, practicing, falling down and standing up–in order to be ready for the real thing. If you do a great job preparing yourself for the ultimate race, you’re bound to succeed. Writers need a lot of practice and the preparation phase is crucial. There needs to be planning, draft after draft and word after word. In the midst of the sweat and worry, come narration, first-person, third person, and dialogues.
A dialogue is what keeps a story vivid, realistic and relatable. It’s important to know exactly how to write quality dialogue and make your characters come alive. When do I add dialogue? How do I make the dialogues sound real, natural, and convincing? Why do my dialogues sound fake and forced? What makes dialogues memorable?
Before you even get to that point, you should probably head onto Writing Process Explained for Non-Writers to familiarize yourself more with the right steps when it comes to writing your ebook.
Now back to the topic at hand, here are 10 tips on how to make your dialogues compelling.
1. Give it Purpose
A dialogue should not serve you as a decoration or as a way to fill out the pages. Meaningless conversations are redundant and boring.
Your dialogue has to have a purpose such as:
- advancing the story
- revealing something
- evoking the readers’ emotion
- adding anticipation
Make sure you write your dialogues purposefully and use them to achieve a goal in your story.
2. Make it Natural
A dialogue needs to sound like a real-life conversation and not some artificial creation. You can achieve this by focusing on everyday language you use with our friends or family and trying to reenact it.
Here’s an example of an unnatural dialogue:
“What has happened to you, John? Your head looks seriously hurt!”
“Oh, don’t worry about it, Ann. It’s nothing serious. “
“What do you mean? I hope you’re not lying to me. It looks terrible.”
“I told you not to worry about it. I can handle it myself.”
Who talks like that in real life? Here’s how to make it sound more natural:
“Jesus John, what happened to your head?!”
“Don’t lie to me, I’m not blind!”
“I can handle it.”
3. Omit the Unnecessary
When it comes to dialogues the rule is: the shorter the better.
Long sentences and monologue-like replicas are dull and they slow the plot down. You need to write an upbeat, concise dialogue which will keep your readers’ attention.
You can do this by writing a dialogue and then deleting all the words you can, without the dialogue losing its purpose. Here’s an example:
“Hi, Tonia. How are you?”
“I’m doing alright. How about you?”
“Not too bad. I’ve been meaning to ask you whether you and Tom have decided to come to my Christmas party?”
“Oh, I’m sorry I haven’t replied yet. Tom might be going away for business that week.”
“On Christmas? You must be devastated!”
Here’s the upgraded, shortened version:
“Are you coming to my Christmas party?”
“If Tom’s not away for business.”
4. Use Tags Wisely
It often happens that writers try so bad to be unique, that they forget to be real.
Using dialogue tags shouldn’t be a tricky one. We suggest sticking to the good old:
Anything else could sound too pretentious and would distract your readers from the dialogue itself. Avoid:
Take your pick:
- “You’re just like your father,” she declared. “You’ll never make it.”
- “You’re just like your father,” she said. “You’ll never make it.”
5. Add Silence
Silence is a great tool for building dispense and adding value to the dialogue. If one person doesn’t say anything, we often know exactly what he’s saying.
“Are you calling me a liar?”
He stared at her, not saying a word.
“I’m done with you!” she said as she slammed the door on her way out.
6. Use Subtext
In natural conversations, people do not say everything explicitly as it is. People use hints, innuendos, allusions and sarcasm. Clever conversation insinuates more than it says blatantly.
- “That’s what you’re wearing?”
The reader understands: “That’s a terrible outfit.”
- “Going somewhere?”
The reader understands: “You’re not going anywhere.”
Not saying what you’re saying, but we know what you’re saying. Cool, right? Subtext is great for engaging the readers, making dialogues real, and letting the readers come up with their own conclusions.
7. Add Body Language and Action with the Dialogue
It’s a good thing to add detail to the dialogue in terms of what the characters are doing. This will help your readers visualize the situation and relate to it even more.
“It’s not the right time yet.”
Chris poured another glass of wine but kept it on the table, staring right through it.
Those details can help you build the emotion you’re aiming for, add tension and advance the story.
8. Speak in Character
The way a character speaks reveals a lot about his or her personality. Dialogues add depth to the characters and help the readers develop certain emotions towards them.
You can let the readers know whether the character is:
In this case, dialogues help you build the character and present it to the readers just the way you wanted to.
9. Use It as a Plot Twist
There’s nothing better than surprising our readers in the middle of a dialogue. Use it as a plot twist to ensure nobody ever forgets it.
You can use the dialogue to:
- reveal a secret
- reveal shocking information
- have a character make a confession
- have someone declare true intentions
This will become a memorable moment in your story if you do it right.
10. Read it Out Loud
Once you finish writing your dialogues, make sure to read them out loud. It will sound different once you hear it.
You can even ask a friend or a family member to read it with you, or for you. Hearing your dialogues will help you decide whether or not they:
- sound natural
- are interesting
- build the emotion you intended
- are too long
- are well-written
Your dialogues are one of your most powerful weapons. They should lead your story forward, add pace when necessary, reveal your characters’ personalities and engage your readers. It’s crucial you make them spectacular and unforgettable.
Use the tips we’ve given you and try coming up with rules of your own. Look for inspiration in literature and famous works of fiction. Once you develop your style, you’ll have nothing to worry about.