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Writing Tip: Dialogue can be Important

Updated on September 5, 2017

Much of what a writer writes depends on the audience and the genre as well as the story itself. That includes the amount of dialogue and description prose. There is really no hard fast rule here. You just don’t want to go the extreme on either side. Dialogue is important, but you need to let the story dictate how much there is.

The Rough Draft

In the very rough draft, don’t worry about any of this. Just write. It’s when you go back that you need to focus on how much dialogue you have. Listen to your work.

The rough draft is just that...rough. Use it to get your ideas down and outline a plot. Get the basic actions down on paper, but don't worry about the dialogue...just yet. How much and what to add will come later. Add dialogue is you want. Make it just notes on what you want to be said even if you aren't sure how it will be said yet. That doesn't make a difference yet.

You dictate what your rough draft presents and then smooth it out as you go back over it. Now back to the dialogue...

Purpose of Dialogue

Dialogue is more than just spoken words. It is a tool that a writer can use to carry a scene, give background information, drop hints, or reveal more of a character's personality. Dialogue can do so much for a writer...more than just have people talking.

Speak, so that we may learn more about you. Speak, so that we may see deeper inside of you. Speak or remain silent to show us a whole different perspective.

How do you learn about people you just meet? You ask them questions and listen to them talk. Their words can tell you so much about their personality, their political stances, their religion, what they see as important, and how they view others. Let your characters do this when they need to talk. Let the dialogue show the reader who the characters really are in a scene where dialogue is important.

Words can carry so much weight which is why how they are used can make or break a story. They can either give it the vibrancy it needs, or the words can darken a story and weigh it down.

The Impact of Dialogue

There are some scenes in which dialogue could easily take away from the effect. Yes, dialogue could be the wrong tool to use in your writing in particular scenes. The scene you are writing might need to be completely descriptive with very little talking. Then again, maybe just a few words will enhance it. Or, this needs to be a scene heavy in dialgoue with small descriptions to explain the voices and the like.

Not every scene has to have a certain number of lines that are dialogue. It varies. If you have a scene where a girl is running through the woods, do you really need dialogue? You might want to put in a phrase here or there where she is speaking to herself out loud, but otherwise dialogue is not necessary. It is all about the description. Focus on the narrative to give that particular scene the impact it needs. But if two people are having a conversation, dialogue is a must. Description might need to be kept small. Let the words reveal what you want shown in that particular scene.

Read your scene out loud. Go back and add a few pieces of dialogue. Read it out loud again. Does it sound better or worse? Maybe you feel that there is already too little dialogue. Cut some out or condense and see how it sounds. Don't think you have to have a certain amount of dialogue. See what your story tells you must be present.

Have other people read your scene. Now, keep in mind that there are as many types of readers as there are writers and books. You could ask ten people to read your scene and get ten totally different responses as to the amount of dialogue. Go with the ones that tend to understand what you are trying to get across to the reader. Avoid the highly critical people.

And listen to the characters. They will tell you sometimes that they just have to say certain things. It’s up to you to deliver their speech.

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