Guest Post: Top Tips on How to Write Convincing Dialogue by Natalia Hooker

Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, dialogue can make a book much more interesting. However, it’s important to get the dialogue right.

So many times I have a read books and the dialogue is written in the same voice as the author. To write convincing dialogue, it is necessary to show the character’s personality through the way they speak.

When you are writing dialogue, I suggest to not only use a sentence here or there, but it’s wonderful to see a whole conversation come to life through dialogue. Think of it like you are watching a scene on the stage or in a movie.

Many authors aspire to have their books created into a film, and its good if you think of your dialogue that way. If you were writing a screenplay, how would the characters talk? Dialogue can make your scenes come alive.

Here are some tips to help get you started in writing convincing dialogue:

Listen closely to people talking, and hear how they express themselves. Everyone has a unique was of speaking. You need to know your character well enough so you know how they would talk.

Where is your character from? Do they have an accent? It can be fun to ‘hear’ their accent. For example, this is a character from my novel Flipped, which is about a girl band set in Italy:

Si, your cousin from London will photo us?” asks Ilaria.

Ilaria says “Si” which is yes in Italian, and then she says “photo us” instead of “photograph us”.  This is a common type of mistake I have heard many Italians make when speaking English, so I used it in the dialogue for this Italian character.

The next step is to make sure that the characters have consistent voices throughout the book. You have to know your character deeply, and what they would say and how they would say it. It’s no use capturing their unique way of speaking for a few lines only, you need to follow through so it’s consistent until the end. That said, do not overdo it either, as too much can distract from the story. For example, just a little tweak here and there to remind the reader of their accent is sufficient.

Another point to consider is the age of your character. Younger and older people have different ways of speaking, so be sure to capture the voice of the right age group.

What time period is your story set in? It’s important to be true to the era of your setting. Remember that we use a lot of colloquialisms with the way we talk today. Even just a few decades ago, the way of talking was more formal.

I was editing the work of a client for a novel set in the 1800s. She wrote that one of her characters said, “See you around.” This is modern language use which threw me out of the world she was creating. If your story is set in a certain time period, ensure you are versed with how people would speak in that era.

The correct use of tags with dialogue is important as well. Usually just a simple: he said, she said, is sufficient. And when it is clear who is talking, especially when it’s a conversation between just two people, no tag is needed.  Overusing tags can actually distract from the dialogue.

For example, “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed suddenly. If it’s clear who is talking, it would be cleaner to simply write, “Oh my goodness!” Also, a usual rule of thumb is to avoid using adverbs with your tag.

One final point is to not underestimate the importance of dialogue in children’s books. Quite often we only think of dialogue for fiction. However, good dialogue can make non-fiction come alive and, even in a very short children’s book, it can make the reading of a book a lot more fun for the children.

If you have any questions about dialogue or would like to participate in a dialogue writing workshop (via zoom), please do not hesitate to contact me.

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Natalia Hooker is the founder of Alaya Books. With over 20 years’ experience in publishing, she is a professional editor, writing coach, publishing consultant and publisher. Whatever stage your book is at, Alaya Books will help make your book a reality. Visit www.alayabooks.com.

Natalia is the author of many books including the biography, LJ Hooker The Man, and The Misha the Travelling Puppy children’s series.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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