8 Amazing Dialogue Tips that will Instantly Enhance Your Writing! #WriteTip

“Writing good dialogue is art as well as craft.” —Stephen King

This post covers how to use dialogue tags or beats correctly. I edit tons of manuscripts for fiction writers and dialogue seems the hardest for writers to write well. 

 Tip 1
Personally, once I get close to finishing a novel, I use a software program that reads the text aloud for me. It’s a great way to hear the rhythm and flow of your character interactions and the conversations to make sure the dialogue sounds natural. If you don’t have access to a program, which can read your text aloud for you—read it aloud to yourself. Or better yet, find someone to read it aloud to you. Trust me, it makes a huge difference in your dialogue.

What are dialogue tags? 

Well, dialogue tags or saidisms are the additions to dialogue that identify the speaker. Without them, the reader would get confused as the conversations unfold, or if you have more than two characters speaking to each other within a scene. Readers need dialogue tags and saidisms that don’t distract from the narrative.

What are saidisms? 
Alternative words that mean “said” that are used to indicate additional information that is not expressed through the actual dialog or in the character description.

Dialogue tags (saidisms) are simple indications that allow the reader to identify each speaker. If there are only two characters in a scene, then it is not necessary to place a tag or saidism after each line of dialogue. Occasionally, you can use the character’s unique speech patterns to distinguish which character is speaking.
Tip 2
Sometimes a writer tries to use dialogue tags to express an emotion, but I feel that is just another form of telling rather than showing. 
For instance, do you think “seethed” is considered a dialogue tag?

EXAMPLE: "I said no, Tony," Amy seethed.

It looks odd, right?

Recently, I noticed "seethed" being used repeatedly as a tag in a published novel that I was reading, and each time it jarred me from the narrative. I consider seethed to be an “emotion,” and not an action or a tone of voice. I mean, you can’t “seethe” words, in my opinion. So, I thought it was an odd use within dialogue. Plus, I don't think writers should force a verb to become a tag, either.

REVISED: "I said, no Tony," Amy said, seething.

Still doesn't work for me and causes narrative distance. 

BETTER?: Amy's face flushed a deep red and she stabbed a finger into his chest. "I said no, Tony."

Yeah, I like this last version best because it has a much deeper POV.

Dialogue and verbs:

My advice is not to force verbs to become shallow dialogue tags. Unlike other tags, “said” is generally invisible to readers. Also, please don’t use verbs to describe an emotion, and then try to turn it into a dialogue tag. Real people don’t frown, smirk, chuckle, sneer, hiss, seethe, pout, or frown their words. These are reactions and expressions and emotions.

He laughed, “Stop tickling me.”
“You’ll all die tonight,” Jake sneered.
"I hate you," I seethed.
"Tom is so late," Carrie pouted.
"I want more apple pie,"  I smirked.

He laughed. “Stop tickling me!”
“You’ll all die tonight.” Jake sneered.
I glared at him. "I hate you."
"Tom is so late." Carrie pouted, her bottom lip sticking out.
"I want more apple pie."  I smirked.
Tip 3

Current writing style guidelines prefer that all saidisms identify the character first, and then the dialogue tag. It should be written as: “Nick said” instead of “said Nick.” If you are self-publishing your work, these are the type of important writing techniques that you should keep in mind. 

Tip 4

Avoid the overuse of adverbs that end in “ly” (in any part of your story). And try not to use too many “ly” adverbs such as “Max said mysteriously,” or “Ashley said wryly” in your dialogue. 

Sure, a few are okay, but don’t overdo it. Why? Because these types of tags tell and don’t show, which take you out of deep POV. 

Try to stick to using the general, “said  / say” tags. The reader’s eyes will simply pass over it and never even realize they’ve read it.
 Tip 5

While acceptable, words such as “hollered” and “bawled” and “cried” often draw their attention away from the dialogue and yank your reader out of the story. 

So, in short, avoid saturating your dialogue scenes with tags such as: cried, yelled, shouted, screeched, whined, declared, questioned, demanded, roared, hissed, or breathed

These words appear as if you have fallen in love with your thesaurus. If the dialogue is well-written, a few carefully placed tags like, “said/say” or "ask/asked"will often do just fine.
Tip 6

Also, try to avoid using too many descriptors like “yelled,” or “said angrily,” or “cried out,” as a description of the character’s emotion. The dialogue tag should allow the reader to interpret how something is being spoken without telling them. And remember that the word “said” is invisible to readers in dialogue text, while too many description tags can be off-putting to the reader. 

While readers tend to read over the basic “said/say” tag, discernible attempts to insert a mixture of words such as “exclaimed,” “shouted,” or “teased,” will completely pull the reader out of the narrative. 

If the writer has written skillful dialogue, then the reader is conscious that the character is exclaiming, bellowing, or mocking. The writer won’t have to include it in the saidism. 
Tip 7

How to write dialogue correctly:
Dialogue is set apart or identified with quotation marks. “Words spoken.” To create realistic dialogue, it does not have to be written in complete sentences. In real life conversations, people don’t always use proper grammar, either. So make certain that your dialogue sounds like what a person would actually say in a real conversation.
Tip 8
Each character needs their own individual voice.

Please make sure that all of your characters sound differently. They should not speak the same way or sound the same.

If you’re writing a crime-drama, your vengeful, homicidal housewife should not sound the same as an alcoholic surgeon who just lost a patient on the operating table. Study current slang and modern trends. Give each character their own unique voice. 

This excerpt is from my adult paranormal romance novel, IMMORTAL ECLIPSE, and it is a great example of mixing description, character reactions, a "unique voice," and emotion:

Victor smiles—a lazy smile, studded with white teeth. “Lovely evening.” 

I’m reasonably sure I’m safe being alone with Victor. Sure, he’s a jerk, the type of bully who’d corner a kid on the playground, terrorize him, then later lift his palms and widen his eyes in mock innocence when the teacher challenges him. Plus, I haven’t had a chance to really interrogate him yet.

He steps closer, almost invading my personal space, eyeing the amulet resting between my breasts for a long second, before his gaze lingers on my boobs. His stare is downright creepy. There’s no way Victor thinks I’m a hottie—we can’t be less each other’s type. And the guy makes my skin crawl. But while I might not know how to handle the spooky stuff, I do know how to handle lecherous men.

“Y’know, being stalked isn’t really a big turn-on for most women.”

He doesn’t answer, just stares at my lady lumps.

“My eyes are up here, Victor.” I put a finger under his chin and tilt his head upward.

He looks down again and licks his lips.

Ewww! I flick his forehead with my index finger and thumb, making him blink sharply.

He rubs the red spot. “Hey!”

I glare. “Stop it then!”

His expression turns wolfish. “Why? Is it affecting you?” 

I cross my arms. “Of course not. You’re being a pig.”

“Am I? So sorry.” 

He doesn’t even have the decency to act regretful. He has that air about him that says he knows who he is and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of him. I envy that....
* * *
As you can see from this example, dialogue scenes can advance the story and amplify the character’s personalities while providing a break from straight exposition. 

Now I challenge you to try rewriting a scene in your own work-in-progress. 
* * *
Also, HERE is an amazing post to read over at the Creative Penn blog on writing dialogue the right way. 

And another great post that discusses proper use of dialogue tags and verbs on Palidor Media HERE

One more great post I found on writing dialogue and verbs on Kathleen Temeans's blog HERE.

Want even more tips on how to enhance dialogue scenes? Please get a copy of my handbook, "The Writer's Guide to Authentic Dialogue Scenes"


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