Well written, realistic dialogue is one of the most useful tools at an author’s disposable. Nothing else can pull a reader from a story than unbelievable dialogue. Imagine a character like Mandy Moore’s in A Walk to Remember. Now picture that character cursing. A bum on the streets won’t use large, obscure words. Neither would a small child. Here are some tips for including authentic dialogue in your novels:
1. Go to the mall or other places where lots of people go. Sit on a bench and eavesdrop.
2. Create a character sketch. In order for your character’s dialogue to be true to the character, it must reflect the character’s flaws, weaknesses, strengths, and personality. A smoker character will not rant about the evils of the big bad tobacco companies.
3. Large blocks of dialogue, similar to large blocks of description, are boring. Pepper some action throughout dialogue scenes. People often talk with hand gestures. Include movements and other actions.
4. Use swear words sparingly unless the character demands it. Some people hide behind them or use them for release. Other characters may only use them under highly stressful situations. And if you are writing a historical piece, look up the curse words of that time period. In Woman of Honor, my high fantasy romance novel, my characters sometimes yell, “God’s Teeth!” or “God’s Wounds!”
5. While using words appropriate to locale (some regions say soda, others pop), try to avoid dating your piece with slang.
6. If you are going to use accents, make certain that they are constant throughout the novel but not overbearing.
7. Once you write a dialogue scene, read it aloud. Does it flow? Does it make sense? Does it further the story and add details to the plot?
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Great tips, Nicole. Thanks! Good, believable dialogue is absolutely essential.
Great idea about eavesdropping at the mall. You can also pick up character traits, hand gestures, little idiosyncrasies, and even a character to include in the story. When researching Beta, I followed the route my character takes on her adventure. Most people I met, whether helpful…or not…were included in the story in one form or another. But dialogue can be tricky if you don’t stay true to the character.