Ask yourself these starter questions when stumbling over dialogue.
- Is your dialogue “on the nose” or too obvious where the characters say exactly what they think and feel? Add subtext.
- Do you have subtext in your dialogue? Subtext is what’s really happening behind the words. If you don’t have it, rewrite and approach the scene from a different angle.
- Do all your characters speak with correct grammar and full sentences? They shouldn’t. Vary speech patterns and word choice per character. Try reading it out loud.
- If you deleted all the dialogue tags, would all your characters sound the same? Rewrite. Dig deeper into your characters.
- Are you using dialogue to disguise info dumping and backstory? Rewrite.
- MG Higgins says: Are your dialogue tags repetitive? Use action beats to show who is talking.
- Ansha says: Do your characters always answer questions right away? Change it up and have them reply with a questions or state something unrelated – maybe to avoid answering.
- Kris says: Is your dialogue choppy? Don’t be afraid to let your characters have a real conversation as long as its relevant.
- Karen says: Do you use too many exclamation points in your dialogue? Show the characters’ emotions through their words and actions.
- Is your dialogue pulling double duty? Dialogue can foreshadow while developing character. It can reveal emotion while moving the plot forward. The more weight it pulls, the better it will be.
Check out this and this and this and this and this post on writing dialogue. I had a hard time finding writers covering dialogue tips on their blogs. If you know of any send them along to me.
Update: Check out the The Blood-Red Pencil. And check out Fiction Groupie.
I’ll post more as I find them.