Some authors have a deep rooted fear of dialogue. They converse coherently on a regular basis, but when it comes to writing, they lock down.
They either feel or have been told the dialogue in their story sounds artificial and dead. With little more information or analysis, writers aren’t sure how to repair the damage.
1. Direct Dialogue – This would be the active form or “real time” version of your story. It’s also the most commonly employed by writers. The problem comes when authors forget that humans frequently interrupt, talk over each other or use incomplete sentences. It’s important to remember to interrupt your dialogue with characterization, exposition, description and tags. This will create a natural rhythm for the reader. When you carry on a conversation with someone, you don’t sit static and talk or respond like a robot. You move a stray hair from your face, glance to check on the kids playing outside, think about the work left sitting on your desk etc. Use some of these in your writing.
2. Indirect Dialogue – The narrator sums up the dialogue instead of showing every word of mundane or inconsequential facts. You want the reader to know these things happened, but you don’t want to slow down the story. For example:
It had been ten years since they had seen each other. They walked and talked. They talked about the weather. He told her about traveling abroad and the jobs he held when he returned. She told him about her failed marriage, where she lived and where she planned to move…
Whichever you choose (you might attempt both) there are a few rules to remember.
1. When sharing backstory, try not to relate an entire history in one sitting. When we gossip about others or talk about ourselves in real life, we do so in episodes or one event at a time. No one relates their entire history in one meeting. Your characters should be the same. Sprinkle the facts throughout, and always hold something back until the end.
2. If you choose to have a character(s) using an accent or slang, use it phonetically when first introducing the character. Afterwards, simply imply or remind your reader of the dialect. Otherwise you run the risk of losing your reader if they are struggling to read an unfamiliar style of speech.
3. Keep your speech tags simple. Use “he said” or “she said” in most cases. Any other tag should only be used sparingly so as not to distract the reader from the story. Also, you only need to identify the speakers the first time in a conversation. If you are writing successfully, the reader will know who is speaking without tagging “he said” or “she said” after every single line of speech.
If you still feel your dialogue is lacking, try adding an argument or misunderstanding into the scene. Nothing builds emotional tension better than conflict.