Have you ever started to read a book and found that you just effortlessly flow with the direction of powerful dialogue? It’s as if you are all speaking the same language because the writer speaks to you in your own language directly to your heart.
Why? Because the dialogue is a conversation, not a monologue. Think about the best conversations you’ve had; I can guarantee you it would not have been only one person speaking. An exceptional discussion occurs only when both parties are equally sharing the conversation in a meaningful way about topics that are genuinely important to them.
So, What is Dialogue?
Dialogue is described as the conversation between two or more characters in a story. Dialogue cannot happen with one person, although an inner dialogue, which is a conversation within oneself (better known as talking to self), is often considered dialogue in today’s modern definition.
Authors develop their characters and define their characters’ personalities through dialogue. The dialogue reveals what type of people or what type of person each character is. Their views on things, their attitudes, and their personalities come to light through the dialogue.
It also makes the story interesting, especially when the dialogue is argumentative or rhetorical. Readers love to read the different perspectives each character has in the story. They will want to know their favourite characters better. The dialogue achieves that.
Without the dialogue, readers will not know the characters and their personalities, emotions, and why they do what they do in the story. Without the dialogue, the story will simply be a narration of events, just another boring book. Equally important to note is that literary agents will check your dialogue when evaluating your book’s marketability.
If you want to add another dimension when writing your dialogue, then it’s prudent to look at the following 3 areas:
- Using silence in your dialogue
- The benefits of reading your dialogue out loud
- Using body language to enhance your dialogue
Using Silence in Your Dialogue
Silence must be considered as part of a dialogue. Why? Because it exposes the deep roots of dialogue that come from our human condition, which precedes language. When there is silence, you allow non-verbal communication to take the place of words.
As silence is sometimes described as deafening, sad, worrying, stern, and so on, we often wish for a word to end an embarrassing silence. But, on the contrary, silence is essential as it helps to stress the contextual condition of dialogue.
It is the unspoken communication that helps describe what people think and understand. It allows people to process what has been said and step back and reflect on how it affects them.
The Benefits of Reading Your Dialogue Out Loud
Every author should read their dialogue out loud to discover what parts don’t work because it is truly a life-changing process for your book. What might look good on paper doesn’t generally mean it sounds good to the ear. Likewise, hearing your dialogue will help you identify if it sounds natural or stilted.
Reading your dialogue aloud means you experience your story in a completely new way. Listen to your sentences as you read aloud. This helps to correct any missed spelling mistakes or grammar as well as context.
This might sound a bit daunting, but it is incredibly effective. You can either record yourself reading your dialogue or ask your family and friends to come over and read through your dialogue aloud for you. Doing this lets you analyse your writing by listening carefully to pick up the following areas:
- where your dialogue is falling flat
- your pace and flow are off
- you hear the reader stumble
- the words are not matching the character
- You are not just wasting words; your dialogue actually has a purpose
- you identify words and names that are unintelligible or too difficult to pronounce
That is because by reading your dialogue out loud, you no longer just look at the margins but the soul of your story.
Using Body Language to Enhance Your Dialogue
Professor Albert Mehrabian introduced a communication model where 7% is verbal communication, the remaining 93% is non-verbal, consisting of 55% being body language and 38% for the tone of voice.
Considering that model, you as an author using non-verbal cues can reveal context about your characters’ actions or feelings. You do this by portraying your character’s body language through facial expressions, body postures, and body movements to describe precisely what your character is experiencing. But, again, remember to be aware that different gestures in different countries have different meanings.
Let’s look at why it’s important to layer in body language to your dialogue.
- When used from time to time, it makes the story interesting to the reader.
- Body language in a dialogue gives the character a facial expression and posture.
- Body language in dialogue also creates a scenic description.
- By including body language in a dialogue, you make the story run smoothly without much explanation.
- In body language through the dialogue, you don’t need to name what the character is feeling. Body language already explains what the character is feeling to the reader.
- A writer can use body language in a dialogue to totally immerse the reader into the character’s emotion, scene, or circumstance.
The trick with using body language in dialogue is finding the balance because it is the best way to show and not tell what’s happening internally for your characters. But, on the other hand, if you use too much body language, your manuscript becomes too busy and can slow your story down.
If you want your characters and their dialogue to impact your readers in a powerful way, do your research by getting yourself a book/s on body language. Because when conveying emotions, it’s essential to understand what body actions to use; for example, there are many ways a body can show that it is sad, happy, angry, infatuated, filled with guilt, or even lying. Look for exciting new body language options you can use to enhance your characters’ emotions and dialogue.
We have all read books where you cringe when an author uses dialogue badly. Sadly, lousy dialogue distracts you from the story, and the last thing you want to happen is for readers to do that to your book. Before you publish your manuscript, you have a chance to clean up your dialogue and take the dull bits out of characters conversations and write dazzling dialogue that will grip your reader’s heart.
So, think about your dialogue, are your characters having pointless discussions that bore your readers? Or are you adding superfluous dialogue just to fill your word quota? Have you thought about incorporating any of the above strategies into your dialogue?
Would you like to learn more about using dialogue effectively, plus get expert insights, practical tips, and tried-and-true techniques to write better, finish faster and captivate your readers while adhering to publishing industry standards?
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