DIALOGUE IS WHAT YOUR CHARACTERS SAY to each other. This goes beyond a description of their thoughts or actions and features their actual voices. We hear how they operate, what their accent is, what they are trying to say. Dialogue differentiates your characters and also brings them together.
"How're you doing?" she asked.
"Not bad," he croaked.
For their words to have meaning, an author needs to portray characters in the midst of a real situation. Something needs to be happening. They can't be speaking in a vacuum, although they could be speaking while vacuuming. Something must be going on. Grandmother's teeth, all of a sudden, look big and she appears to be hungry. Judy bursts into the room with news that she knows Brad won't believe, but has to tell him anyway. Bob is trying to explain his suntan to his boss.
Sometimes it is as much about what they don't say as what they do. Most people do not say what is really in their minds. They're afraid or cautious or don't really know. The reader can gain a lot, not only from how a thing is said, but from what is not said and how a character doesn't say it. Evasive dialogue can be a way of holding the tension of a scene.
Setting is important. Where characters have a conversation can be a significant element and can add to the impact, the meaning, and the depth of what is going on. Remember to include specific detail about both the setting and your characters. Show them looking away. Have them clear their throats, shuffle their feet, etc. Make clear how they are standing or sitting. Let your reader hear the pauses, as well as the words. Describe their breathing, show/tell their reactions to what is being said. All of these reactions and actions are as important as the lines being spoken.
Dialogue is also an essential element in the rhythm of a story. Besides having its own inherent rhythm, it can provide a break between descriptions and exposition. It is literally another voice that acts on the reader. It can keep him awake. It can tell him a joke. It can speak directly to his heart or mind.
>>Dialogue can move the plot forward, but make sure your characters don't talk too much. If they explain everything, it will sound phony. The dialogue must be real and convincing or the characters won't be. Your ear for dialogue is more developed than you might think. After all, you've been listening and participating in dialogue all your life. Not only that, but you've read it in books. You've seen and heard it in the theater and at the movies. You're an expert.
A good way to check whether the dialogue you've written is effective or not is to read it out loud. You'll be able to hear where it works and where it doesn't. Remember that characters, just like people, are idiosyncratic. Every one has a different way of speaking. It is one of the many things that distinguishes them from each other.
When writing dialogue, let your characters go wild. Don't censor them. Let them talk. You can always edit them later. You never know what amazing thing will pop out of their mouths.
Thanks for writing. Have fun. See you next lesson.
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