Good writing takes a lot of practice, and it also helps to get feedback from readers, editors, and other writers.
Sometimes, it’s hard for writers to come up with realistic sounding dialogue. If you want some help, check out The Write One Blog’s “Fiction Dialogue Writing Tips Adapted From Real Life,” which gives a number of helpful tips and examples, including:
- Make the dialogue sound natural
- Give the dialogue variety (hint: add some gestures)
- Read the dialogue out loud, to make sure it sounds good
Marcy Kennedy also has some helpful tips about dialogue in her post, “Have You Orphaned Your Dialogue?” (Marcy Kennedy’s site is also full of great posts about writing, so you should at least peruse it if you’re looking for some guidance.) In the dialogue post, Marcy explains three ways not to orphan dialogue, or as Marcy puts it, “dialogue where the reader isn’t sure whose speaking:”
- Don’t have too many lines of dialogue without attributing the speaker, especially in scenes with many speakers
- Don’t write about two characters in the same paragraph
Another aspect of writing that seems to go hand in hand with dialogue is point of view (POV). There are several types of POVs, including:
- Third person limited (where the reader only knows the thoughts and feelings of one character, told via third person narrator)
- First person limited (where the reader only knows the thoughts and feelings of one character, told via first person narrator)
- Omniscient (where the reader knows everything about everybody, as told via author narrator)
One thing when writing POV is to take into account head hopping. According to Marcy Kennedy, head hopping is when:
(1) The viewpoint shifts between characters without a proper transition (e.g. a scene break).
(2) The thoughts/feelings of the characters are given in their voices rather than in the author’s voice.
Also according to Marcy, head hopping should never be done.
However, according to Jennifer Ellis in her post, “The Pros and Cons of Head Hopping,” there may be instances when head hopping is okay. This includes showing characters’ personalities via internal dialogue, revealing motivations and knowledge at any point, and giving readers a break from one character for a while. On the flip side, head hopping makes it harder to bond with characters, the transitions are subtle and sometimes easy to miss, and not head hopping forces the writer to do more “show than tell,” which makes the writing stronger.
How do you write your stories? Share in the comments!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on August 31, 2015.