Whenever I read a book, I look forward to the pages filled with dialogues. Not only do they provide a respite from the descriptions but also help me in understanding the scene and familiarize me with the characters. The way they talk, the way they think.
I will share nuggets about dialogues which I have gathered from several sources, including my own insights from the books I have read and liked and also from the assignments of my students: why I liked some dialogues more than others.
1. Dialogues should be as natural as possible. For this we have to be good listeners. We should listen to how people talk. Stilted and forced dialogues hamper a great scene.
2. Long Dialogues are boring. Just like long descriptions can put readers to sleep so can long dialogues.
3. Dialogues with too much information can grate on the nerves. It becomes obvious that the author has made the dialogue a dumping ground for information overload. Add the information little by little. Let readers get used to first lot of information before the next lot is piled upon them.
4. Overdoing of dialogue tags detract from the actual dialogues. Sometimes “ she said, he replied, ” are better than fancy dialogues tags which distract the readers’ attention from the actual dialogues.
5. Whenever there is a dialogue between two people, dialogue tags can be done away with. The reader is intelligent and is capable of understanding which character is saying what.
6. Dialogue should always be authentic and real. We should do our research well to check for the authenticity of dialogues. We should check our dialogues against people : will a doctor talk like that, would a police inspector say this, will a teacher speak in this way, will a teenager use that word?
7. Dialogue should always be broken with action. This way our readers will remember that our characters are real people engaging in some action.
8. Slang, abuses and stereotypes must be given a shove.
9. Dialogues should and must contribute to the plot.
10. The purpose of the dialogue is to advance the story, flesh out the character and ofcourse provide the reader a welcome break from long descriptive paragraphs. And the dialogue should do all that.
11. Dialogues should suit the occasion and the scene.
12. Dialogues can identify characters. It would be fun to make certain characters speak in a certain way. That way dialogues become personalized like badges for the characters.
I love to write the dialogues. For me it’s the fun part of my manuscripts. I am guilty of overdoing on dialogue tags ( I hate to repeat a dialogue tag, I prefer to add variety) and I am sure my long dialogues must be driving my editors crazy. What about you all? How do you all tackle dialogues? Any dialogue guilts that you would like to admit?