You have just banged out the first draft of your first novel, and you sit back to read through it, prepared to be amazed by your masterpiece. After the first couple of chapters though, you realize that the main characters seem shallow, the conversations sound stilted, and the whole thing reads like a deadly dull textbook. Now you are wondering what went wrong. You had a great plot, created an amazing setting, built up really meaningful scenes, and wrote a powerful ending. So, how come your book turned out to be a dud?
Perhaps you underestimated the power of the dialogue, like most new writers. Great dialogue in your novel takes your plot, your characters and your entire novel to a whole new level. Lack of it, on the other hand, can turn your great plot into a mediocre novel.
How Do I Improve the Dialogue in a Novel?
Dialogue is essential in your novel to provide depth to your characters, to move the plot along, and to build up tension and conflict in a meaningful way. It also helps the readability of the book when your characters are saying interesting things and adding to the story, without the long paragraphs of descriptions and narrations.
How Do I Write Great Dialogue in My Novel?
Fortunately, it isn’t too hard to improve the dialogue in your novel, once you understand just when, where and how to use dialogue to contribute to your story.
Use dialogues when you would like to reveal some story elements. Try to cover some of the background details through an interesting dialogue between the characters, rather than use descriptions running for pages. Include dialogue when you would like to introduce or draw attention to the characters or their personalities, or their actions. You can also use dialogues when you need to create a sense of tension or action or emotion in the story.
Make sure the dialogue is grounded properly in the plot, the settings and the locations. Create a ‘scene’ with your dialogue, by using it in appropriate places. Locations or settings where the dialogue is carried out will help you to create interesting and realistic dialogues.
Employ dialogue as a tool to help readers understand and connect with the main characters and to develop the characters. Don’t use it just as conversation between the characters. Every dialogue should either reveal something about the character (their emotions, strengths, weaknesses, or some unique characteristics) or reveal something about the plot or actions.
Don’t let your characters drone on for pages. While dialogue should be realistic, it’s okay to make to make it more sharp, brief and interesting than real life conversations. Ensure that characters are not indulging in conversations that don’t help the plot or reveal some information. Avoid long blocks of dialogue as this is quite tiresome to read. Include just enough dialogue to create a good balance with the descriptions, the narrations and the other story elements.
To create a good dialogue, first create a good, thorough characterization of your protagonists in your mind. Ensure that the dialogue matches with the person you are trying to build up in the novel. For example, if your high school dropout character talks like a lawyer, or your macho action hero sounds like a whiny teenager, you need to rewrite the dialogues to keep them in sync with the characters.
Read the dialogues out to yourself. It could look great on paper, but it also needs to sound realistic, interesting and meaningful. It also helps to read, listen to and watch dialogues around you so you can get a good feel for how your characters can deliver great dialogues.
Image credit: Bladeflyer on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/CS_Rajan.jpg [/author_image] [author_info]CS Rajan is a freelance writer who loves to write on various topics, and is currently working on her first novel. [/author_info] [/author]