We all know that strong characterization is key to a believable story, but what about the other aspects of storytelling? To create a believable fictional world, you must do more than create interesting characters. You also need to develop an equally compelling setting and write realistic dialogue. Here are five tips for making your dialogue sound realistic and helping your readers suspend disbelief.
1. Make It Sound Like Something People Would Say
This may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how often writers fall into the trap of writing stilted, unnatural-sounding dialogue. The key is to remember that people don't always speak in complete sentences or use perfect grammar. In real life, we use filler words like "um" and "like," we interrupt each other, and we sometimes trail off midsentence. Imitate these speech patterns in your writing to make your dialogue sound more believable.
Another important thing to remember when writing dialogue in a story is that different characters will have distinct ways of speaking. A character's dialogue should reflect their personality, education level, regional dialect, etc. Pay attention to how people around you speak, and try to capture that in your writing.
2. Write for the Ear, Not the Eye
When you're writing dialogue, it's important to remember that people may be reading your words out loud or listening via software that turns the text into speach. This means that you must pay attention to cadence, rhythm, and pacing. Your goal should be to write dialogue that sounds natural when read aloud. This can be a challenge, but it's worth taking the time to get it right.
One way to make sure your dialogue sounds natural is to read it aloud as you write. This will help you catch any awkward phrasing or choppy sentence structures. You can also ask a friend or family member to read your work aloud so you can hear how it sounds to someone else.
3. Use Dialogue to Further the Plot
In addition to sounding realistic, your dialogue should also be purposeful. Every line of dialogue should move the story forward, revealing information about a character or advancing the plot. Be sure to ask yourself if each piece of dialogue is truly necessary before you include it in your story. If it doesn't serve a purpose, cut it out.
For example, let's say you're writing a scene where two characters are arguing. In addition to making the dialogue sound realistic, you want to use it to reveal something about each character and further the plot. Perhaps one character is trying to convince others to do something they don't want. This conflict will not only make the scene more interesting, but it will also give the reader insight into each character's motivations.
4. Use Body Language and Actions
In real life, people use a lot of nonverbal cues to communicate. We make eye contact, gesture with our hands, and change our facial expressions to convey our emotions. When writing dialogue, it's important to remember to include these nonverbal cues so your readers can get a fuller picture of the scene.
For example, let's say two characters are arguing. In addition to their words, you might also want to describe their body language and facial expressions. Are they glaring at each other? Speaking through clenched teeth? Or avoiding eye contact altogether? These details will help bring the scene to life for your readers.
5. Let the Dialogue Breathe
One common mistake writers make packing too much dialogue into a single paragraph. This can make the scene feel choppy and difficult to follow. Instead, where there is character dialogue, give each character their line of dialogue and leave a space in between. This will help create a natural rhythm and allow your readers to take in what's being said.
Great dialogue is an important part of any story. By following these tips, you can make sure your dialogue sounds believable and furthers the plot. Remember to keep it realistic, purposeful, and enhanced with body language and actions. And don't forget to let the dialogue breathe! With a little practice, you'll write great dialogue in no time.