Writing Tip for Today: What can you do to improve your dialogue? Here are three easy ways:
- Mix it Up with Beats. Practice weaving action, inner thought, body language and setting reminders. If you leave all these elements in separate chunks, your reader won't have a cinematic experience. In and around the spoken lines, relate those other elements with one sentence "beats." Many times you can replace dialogue attributions (he said) with a beat. By letting readers know more than just the dialogue, they will be able to imagine the whole scene much more readily.
- Say it Like You Mean It. Dialogue in a story MUST be about the story. This means steering away from chit-chat (How are you, I am fine), extraneous conversation stoppers such as well, um, er, and information loading (stuff put into the character's mouth for the author's convenience). Instead remember to keep more than one person in a scene (What I call the Wilson Principle)*, and try having characters give more than yes or no answers. If one character asks a question, put an unexpected rejoinder with it. (EX: Are you going to the concert? Who wants to know?)
- Use the Rule of Three. You may have heard that writers should avoid "talking heads," or dialogue with little or no narrative around it. The Rule of Three states that whenever a character speaks three lines of dialogue, consider changing over to a beat of action, inner thought or body language (emotion), or let another character speak. If you've written three exchanges or paragraphs of dialogue, consider a few lines of narration to change things up. Good luck with your dialogue!