Ten Tenets of Novel Writing: Dialogue

A series looking at the ten different principles that go into writing a good book. This essay discusses dialogue.

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Follows: Style

There are a lot of different parts that go into making a novel and, with those, a lot of places where you can go wrong. Throughout this series I’m going to be exploring these different parts. This essay is going to be looking at my sixth tenet: dialogue.

Dialogue has a lot of purposes in writing; it helps convey character traits, it allows readers to get to know and empathise with the characters, it helps to move the plot along and it helps create a clearer picture of what’s happening in the reader’s mind. It’s also one of the harder things to get right in your writing.

As readers we can feel Katniss’s desperation when she volunteers as tribute, through Jack’s dialogue in the Shining we can see his descent into madness and through Poirot’s dialogue we feel as though we’re investigating the murder on the Orient Express with him. We get to know Shadow and Wednesday through their conversations and the entire premise of Interview With a Vampire is that it’s a conversation, dialogue, betwixt the two characters.

Dialogue is important and it’s also quite hard to get right. If you included every part of real dialogue, the pauses, the uhms and ahs and the stumbling of words your readers would get very frustrated with it. What sounds like good dialogue in our heads doesn’t always translate well to the page either. Practice and reading the dialogue aloud is really the only way to improve it. But it is important to improve such a vital part of the story.

Next: Pace

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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