How do you write great fiction dialogue? There is plenty of help around. Just the other day, I saw a list of alternatives to the verb ‘said’.
“Improve your fiction,” they said.
“Make your dialogue more interesting.”
“Use these verbs instead of said… “ It said.
My heart sank. Too much fiction contains weak dialogue. It isn’t natural. It is stilted. It is dry. No number of verbs will improve your dialogue, however unique they may be.
If we rely on our verbs to do the talking, our dialogue will be dire.
You’ll find verbs doing the talking throughout fiction. He whispered, she sneered and so on. And it can get worse, he whispered quietly. She sneered loftily. Adverbs are dangerous at the best of times, but when they are not needed! The verbs are not needed in these instances either.
These quick steps will enable you to write great fiction dialogue, and stop you sounding like you got a copy of Roget’s for Christmas.
- Let your dialogue explain how something is said. The context is the primary tool to use. Two people hiding, or sneaking about will not shout, they will whisper, there is no need to say it.
- Make it clear who is saying what. The only verb needed here is ‘said’ – he, she, Adam, Alice. Only use it when required, if it is unclear from the context and dialogue.
- Let your verbs be verbs. Use them when dialogue isn’t used or needed. Eg Alice sneered – permission is even granted to use adverbs in these situations… sparingly 😉
- Replied, asked, answered are not needed in dialogue. These should all be clear from the context and your punctuation. It is as simple as he said she said.
Using these steps, or rules, you’ll be able to focus on the words being spoken. You’ll find your dialogue becomes more natural as you stop relying on the verbs to do the talking.
Now you know that you only need to use the verb said, you can break this rule and add colour. But only a little and only after your context, characters and speech, have said all they can.
Take your writing further with Write a Short Story