There are so many parts to a novel that make it memorable. The use of words. The description. The characters. And the dialogue.
Dialogue is so important to both novels and movies but it’s one of the hardest things to get right. It has a big job. Not only must dialogue give the reader or viewer information they wouldn’t get in any other way, it also has to reveal character, foreshadow events, provide conflict. Help with resolution. Contrary to what some might believe it should not be responsible for telling your story. The action of your movie or book should do that. Dialogue should enhance what’s already there.
So what can you do to improve your dialogue?
There are a lot of books out there on writing dialogue. There are even some workshops. And I’m sure you’ve all heard the advice about listening to how people talk. All of those are good ways to improve your dialogue but please don’t write dialogue the way people actually talk. People tend to add a lot of unnecessary pauses, ums, no, yes etc., when they talk. We also don’t constantly repeat the name of the person we’re talking to. Example:
“What do you mean by that, Cindy?”
“Well, um, Fred, I mean you shouldn’t do, you know, what I’m doing now.”
“Cindy, I still don’t get it.”
“Fred, seriously? You don’t get it?”
“No, Cindy I really don’t.”
The best advice I ever heard about improving my dialogue was to keep the character in the dialogue. So know your character and make each piece of dialogue that character says reflect one of their characteristics. Another awesome piece of advice that I don’t use just for dialogue was to read it aloud. I read my dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds right, doesn’t feel forced or stiff.
Remembering killer lines of dialogue from movies is easy. But can you think of a great piece of dialogue from a book? What’s the line and name the book.