Dialogue writing tips for the business (and fiction) writer 1

Dialogue in a bookWhy would you want to learn how to write dialogue when you’re a business owner who writes to be seen online? I mean, you’re not an actual fiction writer, are you?

For the same reason fiction writers should study poetry and essayists should study short story. When you delve into a craft topic or write in a different genre, the new subject and genre informs, and often improves, your current writing.

You may never know when you need to use dialogue in a blog post, but there may be a day that you record an interview and choose to quote your subject. Having a skill in dialogue will take the often sloppy actual voice of your subject and turn it into something understandable and meaningful.

As proof, listen to two people talking and see how it sounds. It’s full of weird pauses and partial sentences, but in a manuscript, you need the dialogue to move your story along.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Start your dialogue in the middle after all of the introductory stuff would have been said, like “Hello,” and “How are you?”  Get right into the meat of the conversation.
  • Don’t have the person talking include the other person’s name. In real life, do you say, “So, Carla, what’s happening?” Or do you just say “What’s happening?” The second answer is the correct one. Unless your character is trying to get someone’s attention, you don’t need to include your characters’ names in the dialogue. It sounds stilted.
  • Don’t create expositional dialogue. In other words, don’t use dialogue to relay details and facts important to the story that would otherwise appear in the non-dialogue part of your writing. And don’t have a person tell the other something they already know. Boring!
  • Use exclamation points judiciously—or not at all. Too many, and sometimes even one is too many, and your dialogue takes on a clownish tone.
  • Minimize your attributions—he said, she said. In place of them, you can use something called a beat, which is a bit of action that reminds the reader who is speaking. The beats also adds a bit of detail to the story. Here’s an example: Mary walked in from the garden. “Has anyone seen Stewart this afternoon?” The bit starts with Mary walked . . . It tells us that she’s the one speaking.
  • Don’t overdue the beats, either. Have a balance of attributions and beats, and overall, try to keep the dialogue clean and straightforward.
  • When you use attributions, use said or asked. Don’t get clever and use “she mocked,” or “he spit out.” Good grief. How does someone spit out words, anyway?

For an exceptionally readable and informative book on dialogue, I recommend The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue by John Hough, Jr. His writing is easily understood and he cites tons of examples.

Let me know how your dialogue writing sounds. Have you had an opportunity to include dialogue in a blog post or article? If you want to share a short piece, add it to the comments section below.