Want to know the most important thing about writing dialogue in a novel? If it sounds like a conversation you would hear in the real world, you've gone horribly wrong somewhere.
The next time you are on a train or sitting on a bench in the street, just listen to two people talking...
All of which is fine in the real world - but hopeless for the purposes of dialogue in a novel.
Writing dialogue isn't about replicating real speech. It's about giving an impression of it and also of improving upon it.
Put simply, dialogue in a novel must be so much better than real speech. And the articles below will tell you exactly how to go about achieving that.
This opening article isn't so much a set of instructions on how to write dialogue as a discussion of what dialogue in a novel actually is - and how it differs from a real-world conversation.
At its core, it contains a central piece of advice that it is crucial to understand if you want to write fictional conversations that keep the readers turning the pages.
Now for three articles that get to the very heart of how to write professional, publishable dialogue in fiction.
This first one is all about giving every line of dialogue a reason for existing. If a conversation in a piece of fiction has no reason for being there other than adding to the word count, you must be bold and cut it out, no matter how pretty you think the language might be.
In practical terms, you will discover here the three criteria for deciding whether a line of dialogue has a purpose or not.
Next up, another golden rule for achieving excellence in dialogue writing: don't use ten words when five words will get the job done.
Broadly speaking, conversations in a novel should be cut to the bone. And when you believe you have cut them as far as you can, cut them some more. This article offers three specific ways to achieve this concision.
The third of my three rules for writing great dialogue is to make it flow. Dialogue that flows sounds effortless and spontaneous - just the way you imagine conversations in the real world sound. (Except now, of course, you know better.)
An alternative title here might have been: "How to Stop All the Characters Sounding the Same." Characters in a novel are all unique...
...and precisely the same thing should apply to the way they speak.
The problem is that many novel writing beginners have great difficulty making each character sound distinctive (it is one of the "classic mistakes", if you like). The solution to the problem can be found right here.
Writing dialogue which obeys all of the rules above is still in danger of not sounding true to life.
This article tells you everything you need to know about writing authentic-sounding conversations - like it's two real people who are speaking, not two fictional characters in a novel.
Last but not least, a look at the nuts and bolts of how to punctuate dialogue properly.
Do you know whether to use single or double quotation marks? Do you know what to do if a speech in your novel runs to more than one paragraph? You can discover the answers to these, and other, questions right here.
Now it is time to move away from two or more characters speaking (i.e. dialogue) to just one character speaking (monologue).
More specifically, we look at one character speaking to themselves - not out loud, but in the form of internal thoughts.
Interior monologue is crucial in fiction writing, not least because you really don't get it in any other art form. So please don't miss my Complete Guide to Interior Monologue.
Here are the questions readers have sent me in the Fiction Writing Q & A section related to dialogue...