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3 Ways To Improve Your Dialogue

In this post, I'll be talking (or I guess writing) about how you can improve on writing dialogue.



Dialogue makes up a large part of stories. It communicates a lot, too, such as how people feel or interact. Here's a few tips you can use to improve your dialogue.

Here's an example from my work-in-progress, The Ruby of Fire. Loyalty is lying on the floor in her room, and the caretaker of her orphanage is trying to get her to try a little harder to act nicer, and get adopted.

“Get up now or you’ll lose all privileges," the caretaker said. "I want to speak to you.”
“Sure.” Loyalty said. “Like you really want to.”
“I’m trying to be nice,” the caretaker said.
“Yeah, right,” Loyalty said.
“Look, Loyalty. I have to do something about you because no one wants a bad-mannered, hot-headed, lazy dragonet to care for.”
“Have you considered the fact that you’ve starved me and that’s why I have no energy to do anything?”

1. Use action tags.

First of all, it's unclear what the characters are doing while they're speaking. So let's add a little action. Maybe the caretaker is getting impatient with Loyalty. So I'll replace 'the caretaker said' with an action, like this:

“Get up now or you’ll lose all privileges," the caretaker stomped her foot. "I want to speak to you.”

Be careful with using action tags. Too many can distract the reader from diving deep into the story. Action tags are best used in moderation.

Now we'll look at the next line.

2. Use 'said'.

“Sure.” Loyalty said. “Like you really want to.”

'Said' is a virtually invisible word. I find that when I'm reading dialogue, and the author uses the word 'said', I tend not to notice it and my eyes skim over it. This is good because it keeps the reader within the story and doesn't jerk them into reality (like other dialogue tags sometimes do). So we'll keep this line as it is.

3. Sometimes, tags aren't needed.

Here's the third line.

“I’m trying to be nice,” the caretaker said.

If we take away the dialogue tag, it's still clear who's speaking. I'll remove the dialogue tag to keep the conversation flowing a little more smoothly.

“I’m trying to be nice.”

 That's all for now!

“Look, Loyalty. I have to do something about you because no one wants a bad-mannered, hot-headed, lazy dragonet to care for.”
“Have you considered the fact that you’ve starved me and that’s why I have no energy to do anything?”

For the last three lines, I'll take away the dialogue tag for the first line, use an action tag for the second line, and leave the third line also tagless.

“Yeah, right.”
The caretaker sighed. “Look, Loyalty. I have to do something about you because no one wants a bad-mannered, hot-headed, lazy dragonet to care for.”
“Have you considered the fact that you’ve starved me and that’s why I have no energy to do anything?”

This is what I'll end up with when I put the dialogue back together again:

“Get up now or you’ll lose all privileges," the caretaker stomped her foot. "I want to speak to you.”
“Sure.” Loyalty said. “Like you really want to.”
“I’m trying to be nice.”
“Yeah, right.”
The caretaker sighed. “Look, Loyalty. I have to do something about you because no one wants a bad-mannered, hot-headed, lazy dragonet to care for.”
“Have you considered the fact that you’ve starved me and that’s why I have no energy to do anything?”

Of course, there's still room for improvement, but it reads better than it originally did.

Try to have fun editing,
     Germaine
     Psalm 34:8


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