Why your characters need to keep on talking.
Dialogue is the gift that keeps on giving for a writer. Use it well and it reveals who your protagonist is far more quickly than a page of description ever could. It also allows you to swiftly move the plot forward, set up plot twists or red herrings and bypass lengthy, necessary explanations of where characters have been or need to be. In short, it keeps your story moving; it keeps it interesting for the reader.
Dialogue also, of course, adds realism. People speak and therefore characters need to speak, too. But, what you don’t ever want in a short story or a novel is for characters to speak exactly as we would in real life. Unless it’s a key trait of your character, omit the repeated sentences and slow conversation starters we all do (‘What did you do?’ ‘What did I do? Let me see, I didn’t do much at all, really. What did you do?’) and jump straight to the good stuff: the lines that reveal character or plot points and move things along. I always like a scene or chapter that begins in the middle of a conversation, where it’s not necessarily crystal clear what’s going on but is intriguing, explosive or funny.
Your protagonists are revealed further by what other characters say about them. Don’t forget to make your minor characters work hard for their inclusion in your story. They can act as foils for your main character but they can also be a confidante (great for revealing secrets, desires or motives) and they can show readers how your character is perceived by others.
As a huge fan of humorous books (laughing whilst reading should be prescribed by doctors) I find much of the humour is found in the dialogue. Characters saying the wrong things unintentionally or deliberately; characters coming up with inventive put-downs or revealing (in a not so innocent chat) that things are not actually as they seem; hilarious arguments; one-liners coming thick and fast – I love them all. They’re also great fun to write, and act out – essential for checking that your dialogue sounds authentic.
When writing dialogue, always ask yourself why you’ve opted for a conversation piece. Make it interesting for the reader and make it work for you as the writer.
If you’d like more information on dialogue classes, please drop me an email for a full class list.