By: Miranda Clark-Poulson
Dialogue is essential to most stories. Naturally, this can make it difficult to tackle. Few writers can get away without using dialogue, so it’s better for us to get comfortable and learn to love it. But, before we get in too deep, it’s important to note that dialogue should do two things: push the plot forward and develop your characters.
Dialogue as a Plot Device
One of the biggest ways to make sure your dialogue is doing work is to avoid small talk. Nobody likes small talk and having your characters discuss the weather doesn’t do anything for the readers (unless your story revolves around tornadoes or floods – then, by all means, carry on).
Along these lines, remember that some dialogue can be written in summary. Readers don’t need to see every “hello” and “goodbye” that occurs. For example, instead of putting your characters through lengthy greetings, saying “they greeted each other” works just as well without interrupting the prose rhythm.
Dialogue as Character Development
A lot can be learned about someone by how they speak. Think about your character’s background. Where did they grow up? What’s their education level? Use this information to help round out your character and make their dialogue believable.
It’s also important to recognize that people usually change their speech depending on who they’re talking to. Think about how your character talks to their mom, friend, kid, etc. If they talk to their teacher the same way they talk to their best friend, that says a lot about their personality and their relationship with the other character.
Creating strong dialogue helps round out characters and stories. If your dialogue isn’t adding something to your piece, cut it out. Your readers – and your story – will thank you.