When it’s finally time to sit down and write your next best seller, remember that engaging and realistic characters are a crucial component of a successful manuscript. Characters must come to life and help create a sense of reality that readers will naturally connect with. Part of this means having great dialogue—one of the trickiest elements of a manuscript. Luckily, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help.
Characters shouldn’t be talking to just fill page space up.
Dialogue should always provide something extra to the story. It can be used to further explain a situation, explore the emotions felt between characters, or uncover a character’s personality. Try to remove dialogue that isn’t necessary or seems redundant. Things like “Hi” and “How are you?” are assumed by the reader (it’s better to write something along the lines of “So-and-So greeted So-and-So when she entered the room”), and an audience won’t be completely engaged in a passage that includes the small talk between characters.
Stay away from the use of hyperbole and stutter words.
Hyperbole, or over exaggeration, and stutter words within dialogue can become a bit messy. These textual devices should really only be used when absolutely necessary. They have the tendency to drag events of the story out longer than needed. Readers often become confused as to whether or not these are intentional style choices from the author or if they’re meant to provide an exaggerated scene.
Choose simple speech tags.
After a character speaks, keep the speech tags simple, or drop them altogether when it’s clear who is speaking. It’s best to use tags such as “said” or “asked” after dialogue. Writers should show what the character is doing, instead of telling the audience. The same rule of simplicity applies to the use of adverbs following speech tags. They can be used, but sparingly and only when adding an important aspect to that particular piece of dialogue. A multitude of adverbs can appear overbearing or overemphasized.
Dialogue should reflect setting and audience.
Your characters’ dialogue should reflect the desired audience you wish to reach and the setting in which your story takes place. For example, your characters might use a lot of slang if your readers are primarily teenagers, but not if your target audience is adults over 40. Similarly, it can get confusing if a character is using words or phrases that appear out of place or out of genre.
In the end, the most important factor in writing dialogue is crafting speech that readers can connect to and that makes them feel as if they’re right there in the conversation.
– Brennah Hale