5 Lessons I've Learned About Writing Dialog In Fiction

This post, from Brad Vertrees, originally appeared on his Brad’s Reader site on 9/21/09.

One of my biggest weaknesses is writing dialogue. A lot of times, my characters ramble on about nothing and I end up cutting a lot of dialogue out while editing. So I decided to read up on how to write better dialogue so I can improve this very important element of fiction. Here’s a little of what I learned.

I decided to read the book Write Great Fiction – Dialogue (aff link) and although I’m still reading it, I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons on the art of dialogue. First and foremost, dialogue is not easy to write. Beginning writers, and even seasoned writers, tend to struggle with it. So if you’re like me and have trouble making your characters talk, you’re not alone.

Here are 5 things you should consider the next time you sit down to write a scene with dialogue:

1. Dialogue needs to propel the story forward. If your characters are just standing around chatting, talking about the weather or their weekend plans, chances are the dialogue is not being effective and you need to cut the scene or rewrite it. Dialogue needs to move the plot forward and keep readers interested.

2. Dialogue is used for pacing in a story. Long and drawn out narratives in a story will slow the pace down. At the same time, dialogue generally speeds things up. Good fiction should be a balanced combination of the two. If your story has too much narrative you are likely to put your readers to sleep. On the other hand, if your story is all dialogue with little narrative, you will probably lose your readers and they’ll have a hard time following the story.

The bad news is that pacing isn’t something that can easily be taught. It’s more intuition than anything. The good new is that you can get better at it by reading a lot of varied genres and practice, practice, practice.

Read the rest of the post, including lessons 3-5, on Brad’s Reader.

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