Quick Tips: Write Dialogue Like a Pro

Have you ever thought about how to make characters in books feel like real people, each with their own way of talking and acting? Many writers aim to do this, and it’s not as hard as it might seem. We’re going to explore some tips to help make your characters stand out, each with their unique voice. This guide will show you how to bring your characters to life, ensuring they each have their individuality, without the need for complicated techniques.

Understanding Character Voice

Creating Unique Character Voices: A Simple Guide

Do you ever read a book and marvel at how each character sounds distinctive, like meeting a bunch of different friends at a cafe? Well, good news! You don’t need to be a literary genius to give your characters that unique spark. Let’s dive into making each character’s voice as unique as their personality, without the need for a PhD in English.

  1. Dive into their backstory
  2. Before your character even speaks, know them. Like, really know them. Where did they grow up? What was their family like? This shapes their speech. A character raised in a bustling city might talk fast, dropping the ‘g’ in -ing endings, while a character from a laid-back rural area might have a drawl, taking their sweet time with every word.

  3. Slang and Swear Jar
  4. Slang is your new best friend. Each character should have their own set of words they lean on. Maybe your teenage wizard says “wicked” more times than you can count, while your elder sorcerer sticks to more arcane, outdated phrases. And when it comes to swearing, decide who’s got a sailor’s mouth and who prefers “oh fudge” when they stub their toe.

  5. Sentence Length Matters
  6. Pay attention to sentence length. Your energetic, always-in-a-rush character might speak in quick, choppy sentences. Meanwhile, your thoughtful professor type might love a long, winding sentence like it’s a leisurely Sunday drive.

  7. Question Marks and Exclamations
  8. Who asks more questions? Who’s always exclaiming, full of excitement or anger? Maybe your young adventurer’s sentences are littered with curiosity, while your seasoned warrior states things flatly, used to their commands being followed without question.

  9. Accents and Dialects
  10. If you’re feeling bold, play with accents and dialects carefully. A soft touch goes a long way. Maybe your character from the north rolls their R’s, or your city dweller drops them entirely. Just remember, clarity is key. You want your readers to hear the accent, not get lost in translation.

  11. Practice with Dialogue Tags
  12. Lastly, minimize the “he said, she said.” If you’ve done your job right, readers will know who’s talking by how they say it. Challenge yourself by writing exchanges without tags and see if it still makes sense.

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There you have it, a straightforward guide to giving your characters voices that leap off the page. Don’t stress about getting it perfect on the first draft. Like any good recipe, it might take a dash more of this or a pinch less of that to get it tasting just right. Experiment, have fun, and let your characters surprise you with what they have to say.

Image of a guidebook with character silhouettes speaking different dialogues

Using Dialogue Tags and Beats

Diving Straight Into Action With Dialogue Beats

Ever caught yourself engrossed in a conversation that felt so real in a book, you almost heard the voices? That’s the magic of nailing dialogue beats. Unlike the more familiar dialogue tags that nudge you with a simple ‘he said’ or ‘she asked’, dialogue beats elevate your writing, giving it a cinematic feel. Wondering how to master this trick? Strap in; we’re breaking it down to get you writing like a pro.

1. What Exactly Are Dialogue Beats?

First off, dialogue beats are those little actions interspersed within conversation. Picture this: instead of just saying ‘he laughed,’ you write, ‘he threw his head back, roaring with laughter.’ It’s not just about what’s being said but how the characters physically react in the moment. This technique does double duty, making your dialogue pop and painting a vivid picture of the scene.

2. The Secret Dance of Show, Don’t Tell

We’ve all heard the advice to “show, don’t tell,” right? Well, turns out, it’s golden for dialogue beats too. Instead of lazily informing your reader that ‘John was nervous,’ show them. Have John fiddling with his watch or wiping sweaty palms on his jeans mid-conversation. It’s subtle, but it speaks volumes. Your readers will be able to sense the tension without you spelling it out.

3. Keeping Balance – Not Too Little, Not Too Much

Here’s the kicker: too many dialogue beats and your scene feels overwrought; too few, and it’s flat. Fine-tuning this balance is key. Observe real-life conversations. Notice those natural pauses, the unconscious fidgets, the glances away? Those moments mirror real human interaction and keep dialogue from feeling like a ping-pong match of words. Aim to sprinkle these beats like seasoning – just enough to enhance, not overpower.

4. Variety is the Spice of Life

If every dialogue beat is a character sipping coffee or looking out the window, you’ll bore your readers. Mix it up! Reflect on your characters’ unique traits and let those guide their reactions. Maybe one character cracks their knuckles when anxious, while another rambles. Diversity in action keeps your readers engaged and paints a richer picture of each personality.

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5. Seamless Integration with the Scene

A dialogue beat isn’t an island; it should blend seamlessly with the surrounding text. If your scene is tense, maybe a character is methodically tearing a napkin into tiny pieces while debating their next move. If the mood is light, perhaps they’re absentmindedly humming a tune. These actions should feel natural within the context, adding depth without disrupting the flow.

6. The Power of Pacing

Dialogue beats can be a fantastic tool for controlling pacing. A quick back-and-forth might speed up a scene, but the right dialogue beat can slow things down, allowing the reader to catch their breath. Use them to emphasize important moments, making your readers pause and reflect right alongside your characters.

Becoming a maestro of dialogue beats doesn’t happen overnight. Like any skill, it takes practice. Pay attention to real-life conversations, read books with engaging dialogue, and most importantly, write. Experiment with different beats, play with pacing, and soon, you’ll find your scenes coming to life in ways you never imagined. Remember, the goal isn’t just to tell a story—it’s to immerse your readers in it. Let those dialogue beats guide the way.

Description of an image that would go with the text, describing it for someone that is visually impaired

Incorporating Subtext in Dialogue

Now that we’ve covered the basics of making your dialogue pop with everything from backstory to dialogue beats, let’s dive into the world of subtext to elevate your characters’ conversations even further. Subtext—the under-the-surface meanings and intentions behind what your characters say—can be the secret sauce that makes your dialogues truly unforgettable. Ready to learn how to master this crafty technique? Let’s get started!

Give Your Characters Secrets

First up, everybody loves a good secret. When your characters have something to hide, it adds layers of intrigue. Think about it: when two characters are discussing something as mundane as the weather, but you, the writer, know one of them suspects the other of foul play, every word is charged with hidden meaning. Give your characters something to hide or something to discover, and watch their dialogues become a battlefield of wits.

Contrast Actions and Words

Next, let’s talk action. Imagine a scene where a character declares they’re absolutely not scared, yet they’re fidgeting or looking over their shoulder. Instant tension, right? The contrast between what characters say and what they do is a gold mine for subtext. It’s a show-don’t-tell strategy that lets your readers play detective, piecing together the real story from clues you drop.

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Utilize Silence and Pauses

Silence is powerful. Those moments when a character chooses not to speak can scream louder than words. Pauses or silence in a conversation can indicate hesitation, secrets, or emotions too strong to voice. Maybe a question about a past lover is met with a too-long pause, suggesting lingering feelings. These moments invite your readers into the characters’ inner worlds without a formal invitation.

    Play with Power Dynamics

Subtext is a playground for exploring power dynamics. Through what your characters choose to say—or not say—you can reveal who holds the power in a relationship. For example, a character who constantly interrupts another isn’t just bad at conversation; they’re asserting dominance. Alternatively, a character who speaks in a roundabout way to another may be trying to navigate a power imbalance. This dance of words and power provides a rich layer to explore in your writing.

Add Layers With Metaphor and Symbolism

Lastly, don’t be afraid to get metaphorical. Characters speaking in metaphors or symbols can add depth, especially when discussing themes of your story. A character comparing a crumbling building to their failing relationship isn’t just talking about architecture; they’re revealing their fears and doubts without saying it directly.

Remember, the key to effective subtext isn’t just in what is being said—it’s in everything that’s left unsaid. It’s the tension between words, the secrets, the lies, and the truth that lies between the lines. The more you practice weaving these techniques into your dialogues, the more engaging and multi-dimensional your characters and their conversations will become.
And there you have it! Dive into these strategies, and watch your dialogue transform from great to extraordinary. Keep fine-tuning, and soon you’ll have your readers hanging on to every unspoken word, unraveling the mysteries of your characters’ true intentions one line at a time. Happy writing! ((TEXT END))
A visual representation of different dialogues with subtext strategies highlighted

As we wrap up, remember that mastering character voice, dialogue beats, and subtext takes practice. But with these strategies in your toolkit, you’re well on your way to creating memorable, vibrant characters that readers will fall in love with. It’s about paying attention to the details, experimenting with various methods, and always striving to improve. So, keep writing, stay curious, and let your characters lead the way. They have fascinating stories to tell, and now, you know just how to give them a voice.