1. It Must Move the Story Forward
Unlike normal speech, the dialogue in fiction must move the story forward. It must be part of the plot.
Here's an example of what good dialogue shouldn’t be:
“Hi, Jill. How are you?”
“Oh, I’m okay. How are you?” Bob said.
“I’ve been better. My boss just laid me off,” Jill said.
In the above example, the two characters are chitchatting. While you will find this in normal conversation, it is not advisable to write it in fiction. You risk boring your reader with needless banter. Instead, get write to the point. Keep your reader gripped and entertained.
Here's an example of what good dialogue should be:
“Oh my god, Jill, I just heard the news. What are you going to do?” Bob asked as he ran up to Jill.
“Apply at the Moon. I hear they’re hiring,” Jill said as she turned to view Bob.
“Yeah, but the Moon? You know what kind of publication that is.”
“I know, but I need income,” Jill said.
“I don’t like it. Three of their last new hires have disappeared while on assignment,” Bob said.
2. Sentence Fragments Are Okay in Dialogue
Very rarely will you ever hear people speak entirely in complete sentences. It’s usually a combination of sentences and fragments. The best way to examine this is to go to a restaurant or café. Sit and listen to how people talk. Write down what they say. Look at the ebb and flow of the conversation.
Here's an example of a complete sentence conversation:
“Joe, what are you going to do today?” Jason asked.
“I’m going to go to the store. Then I think I’ll go to the gym. After that, I might just take a nap.”
“That sounds nice. I might take a nap too or head to the gym,” Jason said.
Here's an example of the same conversation in sentence fragments:
“Joe, what’s your plans for the day?” Jason asked.
“I think I’ll head to the gym, the store. Might take a nap.”
“Yeah. Sounds like a plan. Especially that nap. Just worked 12 hours.”
That second dialogue example sounds much more natural. If your characters are the type to speak in a more relaxed way, this is the perfect way to write their dialogue.
3. Dialogue Can Add Description
Do not be afraid to add description to your dialogue. It serves a two-fold purpose. It lets the reader know what your characters are doing while they're talking. Also, description provides dialogue beats (breaks and pauses in the dialogue without using “He said”, “She said.”
Here's an example of the above dialogue with description:
Jason opened the refrigerator and pulled the pack of baloney. He grabbed the bread off the counter before sitting out at the kitchen table. “Joe, what’s your plans for the day?”
“I think I’ll head to the gym, the store. Might take a nap,” Jason said as he made himself a sandwich.
“Yeah. Sounds like a plan." Jason grabbed the baloney and bread from his brother. "Especially that nap. Just worked 12 hours. Midnight shift is killing me.” He pulled out two slices each of bread and baloney.
Now when you sit down to write your next story, keep these 3 dialogue writing tips in mind. Your readers will be happy you did. Readers definitely appreciate the natural dialogue and they will want to read more of your stories.
Stacey Carroll is the author of the thriller series - Avia. She also authors the paranormal erotica series - The Blooddoll Factory. Stacey grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. she went to college at Indiana State University (ISU) and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in aerospace in the professional pilot program. She has flown Cessna 152s, Cessna 172s, the Piper Seneca and the King Air. She also graduated with a minor in computer science that specialized in web design.
She has always been interested in reading and writing, and the first book she was ever read was the Grimms Brother's Fairy tales. From the ages of 6 to 11, she read the Nancy Drew series. By the age of 11, she had graduated to Stephen King novels. A few of her favorites include Carrie, Tommyknockers, The Dark Tower Series up to book 3 (That's where it stopped in the late 80s/ early 90s), Pet Semetary, The Shining, Night Shift, The Stand, It, Cujo, Christine, The Eyes of the Dragon and Thinner (Richard Bachman). In her teen years, she moved on to Anne Rice and got through about four of those books before they degraded. If you've ever read Anne Rice, you know book 5 isn't readable. Stacey has read a couple Harry Potter books as she was introduced to them in the early 2000s, and she's never read or watched anything Twilight or 50 Shades. Sorry. I'm a vampire purist, and nothing needs to be said about the latter. You already know.
She is currently an author and freelance writer. She received an honorable mention in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 2008 for a short story entitled The Field. In 2014, she was published in 13 Stories by Us by MacKenzie Publishing.
Other books by Stacey