How to Write Dialogue and Keep Your Readers Hooked

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Table of contents

  1. Empty
  2. The Power and Importance of Dialogue
  3. Top 5 Tips for Writing Realistic Dialogue
  4. Stay Away From Small Talk
  5. Give Your Dialogues Character
  6. Avoid Big Blocks of Paragraphs
  7. Use Dialogue For Conflict
  8. Don't Forget Non-Verbal Communication
  9. Final Thoughts

Empty

{"blocks":[{"key":"6pdtq","text":"Knowing how to write dialogue is arguably the most critical skill an author needs to master. Without realistic dialogue, readers won't feel connected or immersed with your writing. It also weighs your characters down and prevents you from pushing your plot forward. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":266,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":266,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":266,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":266,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"c7s4o","text":"Writing dialogue takes skill, but it's a skill anyone can learn with a bit of practice. In this article, we'll guide you through some of the best dialogue-writing tips and tricks for beginners and professionals alike.","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":217,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":217,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":217,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":217,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}}],"entityMap":{}}

The Power and Importance of Dialogue

{"blocks":[{"key":"dekib","text":"Along with proper grammar, a good story depends on five major things: characterization, plot formation, conflict resolution, and dialogue. If one aspect fails, others are likely soon to follow.","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":193,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":193,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":193,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":193,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"asrtt","text":"In the words of Seth Godin, dialogue leads to connection, leading to trust and engagement. Well-written dialogue relies on the natural cadence of human language and conversation. However, many still find it difficult to write dialogue in a story despite engaging in conversations their entire life. They're not to blame; writing dialogue is hard work. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":352,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":352,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":352,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":352,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"2ueju","text":"Dialogue is important for the following reasons: ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":49,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":49,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":49,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":49,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"51ogt","text":"It helps you develop your character’s personality and backstory ","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":64,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":64,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":64,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":64,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"1umum","text":"It helps you create tension between your characters and establish the mood","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":74,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":74,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":74,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":74,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"28mi5","text":"It allows you to reveal important plot points and details that a reader may have missed ","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":88,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":88,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":88,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":88,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"635hg","text":"It moves your story forward","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":27,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":27,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":27,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":27,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"8o17s","text":"It helps readers connect and understand the relationship between your characters ","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":81,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":81,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":81,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":81,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"4cd8e","text":"It adds realism to your story ","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":30,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":30,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":30,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":30,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"n92n","text":"It makes your story more vivid and dynamic","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":42,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":42,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":42,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":42,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}}],"entityMap":{}}

Top 5 Tips for Writing Realistic Dialogue

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Stay Away From Small Talk

{"blocks":[{"key":"57rla","text":"Dialogue isn't meant for small talk. The occasional \"Hey, how's it going?\" is completely fine, but don't overdo it. Remember: small talk is boring and awkward, even in real life. It's filled with gaps of silence and awkward, forced laughter. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":242,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":242,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":242,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":242,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"eesg4","text":"If small talk is necessary and is part of driving your plot forward, add character characterization and description. Who is the character talking to, and what significance do they have in your plot? Does your character like them, hate them, or feel nothing for them? ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":267,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":267,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":267,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":267,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"8uc0i","text":"Keep it interesting. If the small talk doesn’t contribute to the story, it’s best to avoid it entirely.","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":103,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":103,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":103,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":103,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}}],"entityMap":{}}

Give Your Dialogues Character

{"blocks":[{"key":"et4vh","text":"Dialogues are a great characterization tool. They add personality to your characters, therefore allowing your readers to identify who's talking without your explicit statement.","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":176,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":176,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":176,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":176,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"egtur","text":"Your character's dialogue patterns should remain consistent throughout your book. Use unique speech patterns, terminology, and vocabularies. Match them with your character's age, occupation, and education. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":206,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":206,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":206,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":206,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"gh97","text":"Here are three dialogues that say more or less the same thing, but in different manners: ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":89,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":89,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":89,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":89,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"2tsh3","text":"\"Jane looks troubled today. Do you happen to know why?\" ","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":56,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":56,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":56,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":56,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"fehkq","text":"\"Why does Jane look like she's got the whole world on her shoulders?\" ","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":70,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":70,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":70,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":70,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"d9cti","text":"\"So, is Jane the new Squidward or what?\" ","type":"unordered-list-item","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":41,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":41,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":41,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":41,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"a86o8","text":"Along with the aforementioned vocal cues, dialogues also inject personality into your character's voice. Do they speak eloquently, carefully choosing their words before they utter them? Do they use complex phrases, or are they rough around the edges? ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":251,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":251,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":251,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":251,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"43cnh","text":"Adding accents also help, but it’s often not the preferred choice because it's easy to overdo. It might also make your character's speech too distracting. If you decide to use accents, keep it simple but memorable. Most importantly, try not to stereotype. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":256,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":256,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":256,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":256,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}}],"entityMap":{}}

Avoid Big Blocks of Paragraphs

{"blocks":[{"key":"4kaml","text":"As much as possible, keep your dialogue brief. Give your characters time to breathe after every sentence or two. Lengthy exchanges are exhausting and often frustrating to read. Your readers might skim over them or skip to the next section of the story just to avoid them. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":272,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":272,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":272,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":272,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"3vl0","text":"In real life, people rarely talk like they're giving speeches. If you must write a particularly long line of dialogue, add an action or two that occurs before, in between, or after the lines. Don't info-dump, either. You don't need lengthy, detailed exchanges to reveal a character's motivation or an important story plot point. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":330,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":330,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":330,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":330,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"33pl2","text":"You can also use brief dialogue to add suspense and reinforce the atmosphere in your story. For instance, in Rick Riordan's \"The Sea of Monsters'', the conversation went like this: ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":181,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":181,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":181,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":181,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"a5bq5","text":"“You weren't able to talk sense into him?\"","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":42,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":42,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":42,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":42,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"dv8s6","text":"\"Well, we kind of tried to kill each other in a duel to the death.\"","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":67,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":67,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":67,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":67,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"ftfdp","text":"\"I see. You tried the diplomatic approach.”","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":43,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":43,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":43,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":43,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"bf0bv","text":"It's humorous and clever, but it also leaves a sense of foreboding or impending doom for the inevitable conflict ahead. It leaves enough room for a reader’s imagination to go wild.","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":180,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":180,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":180,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":180,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}}],"entityMap":{}}

Use Dialogue For Conflict

{"blocks":[{"key":"ck4dv","text":"A good story doesn't come without conflict, whether external (character vs. character or character vs. environment) or internal. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":129,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":129,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":129,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":129,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"deikd","text":"Dialogues are a great way to show your character's emotions and how they deal with them. You can write this through disagreements, threats, lies, demands, and taunts.","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":166,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":166,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":166,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":166,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"a54gh","text":"Again, keep it brief. Try not to turn it into an almost never-ending tug-of-war. People tire of talking to each other eventually, especially amid conflict or extreme stress. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":174,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":174,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":174,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":174,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"74r0i","text":"Before writing the scene, ask yourself these questions: Who has the upper hand in the scene? Is one of the characters bubbling just under the surface? And, most importantly, what does the scene contribute to your story? ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":220,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":220,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":220,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":220,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}}],"entityMap":{}}

Don't Forget Non-Verbal Communication

{"blocks":[{"key":"atpum","text":"You've probably heard this phrase over and over again: silence is louder than words. The same is true in certain dialogue exchanges. Not everything has to be said; you'd be surprised how much body language and gestures contribute to a story. In fact, a non-verbal response can be more powerful than a verbal response. ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":318,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":318,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":318,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":318,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"81sf1","text":"Imagine this: Character A begs Character B for forgiveness, but Character B is cold and unyielding. He or she simply frowns at Character A's attempts and turns away without a word. Don't you think that's far more devastating than a verbal response? ","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":249,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":249,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":249,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":249,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}},{"key":"768n7","text":"There are multiple ways to write a non-verbal response, including a tilt of the head, a wink, a nod, a shrug, a thumbs up, or through a brief, fleeting touch. That said, try not to use these gestures or actions repeatedly as it'll sound awkward, unnatural, and redundant.","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":271,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":271,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":271,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":271,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}}],"entityMap":{}}

Final Thoughts

{"blocks":[{"key":"fmv6k","text":"Dialogues are a great way to hold your reader's interest and attention. Not only do they define and build your characters, but they move your story forward in a non-tiring manner. With enough practice, you'll master the art of writing dialogue.","type":"unstyled","depth":0,"inlineStyleRanges":[{"offset":0,"length":244,"style":"color-rgb(0,0,0)"},{"offset":0,"length":244,"style":"bgcolor-transparent"},{"offset":0,"length":244,"style":"fontsize-11pt"},{"offset":0,"length":244,"style":"fontfamily-Arial"}],"entityRanges":[],"data":{}}],"entityMap":{}}