I’m forever grateful for writing groups such as the Peninsula Writer’s Club who organise wonderful workshops.
Yesterday, I attended a fantastic session with the well-known author and non-fiction editor of Island magazine, Anna Spargo-Ryan, on dialogue and characterisation.
If you ever get the chance to attend one of Anna’s workshops, I highly recommend it.
Anna took us through how dialogue can help drive the narrative as well as giving us a great deal of amazing advice.
I’d like to share with you some hints of my own that I’ve learned over the years which will, hopefully, be helpful in your own writing.
Here’s my top 5 tips for dialogue writing.
- Know your purpose – why are you writing this piece of dialogue? Does it naturally flow from the prose? Is it a way to break up the narrative? Or is it fundamental to the plot and/or character development?
- Know your characters – what are the mannerisms/tics/actions/vocabulary that define your characters? What are their speech patterns? Does the conversation flow or is it more stilted?
- Know your scene – pause for a moment before writing and visualise the scene. Where are your characters? What is going on around them? What is the background noise? Do your characters sound rushed? Intense? Flighty? Guilty? Think about how the character would say a line and how they would interact with other characters. What are they trying to say in this scene? Layer the interaction with action/introspection/description or mannerisms to bring the dialogue alive.
- Know your characters’ motivations – what do they want from this interaction? Or don’t want? Are they avoiding something or trying to discover something? Will this be obvious or more subtle?
- Know your ‘said’ from your ‘said sadly’ – Don’t spend time on your thesaurus looking for a clever alternative to the dialogue description ‘said’. A simple ‘said’ is enough for the reader to get the gist of the conversation and then move on. Spend time instead writing believable, meaningful dialogue that flows.
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