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5 Tips to Write Compelling Dialogue

May 8th, 2020

Writing a story or novel is a skill that takes time to develop: you need to know how to flesh out your characters, strategize your plot, reach a satisfying climax, and wrap everything up neatly.

One of the most crucial tools in your writers’ toolbox is compelling dialogue. The best writers know how to make their characters talk in a way that feels so real, we can instantly identify who’s speaking even without a dialogue tag. How do they do that?

How to write better dialogue

Here are some tips on how to write better dialogue:

  1. Listen to the way people talk.

One pitfall that writers fall into is writing dialogue for characters as though they were writing, not talking. Take time to pay attention to the way that real people talk, and take note of the following:

They tend to speak in fragments and not always in full sentences.

They don’t always speak in grammatically correct lines.

A lot of the time, they interrupt each other.

Use these in your writing and you will see the dialogue becoming more real.

  1. Consider colloquialism when giving each character a unique voice.

Using colloquialism, or words used in ordinary conversation, is a great way to give your characters a touch of personality. Does one of your characters have Irish roots? Does he come from a rich family, or a day-laborer background? All cultures have a unique way of speaking.

The key is to assign specific colloquialisms only to certain characters. Don’t overdo it by having everyone speaking with unintelligible spellings all the time. Instead, plan out character profiles for each of your main characters so you can figure out which ones to gift with a specific twang—and how that background affects your story.

  1. Skip the small talk.

Although real people go in for small talk a lot, this waters down your story. Instead, focus on dialogue that moves your story forward. For example, instead of having your characters waste precious space exchanging pleasantries about the weather, go straight to what they need to be talking about—like the long-standing feud simmering around their deceased father’s estate.

  1. Minimize expository speech.

Sometimes writers like to add explanations through the characters’ conversations. Resist the temptation: in real life, nobody goes into lengthy explanations of their motivations, unless perhaps they’re lying back on the sofa talking to their psychiatrist!

  1. Maximize non-verbal descriptions.

To avoid overusing dialogue, be conscious of non-verbal cues that your characters may be giving. For example, a character that’s feeling impatient while listening to someone else doesn’t have to say right out, “I’m losing my patience here!” Instead, you can describe her as tapping her finger or fidgeting in her seat.

Writing Better Dialogue

Lastly, check your dialogue by reading it out loud. If you find something that sounds off, don’t be afraid to go back and refine it until you get it right: remember, as a writer, compelling dialogue is one of your best friends!


Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.



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