Posted in Writing

The Problem with Dialogue

As a writer, there are things that I find easy (ish) and things that are more difficult. One of my biggest problems has always been writing dialogue. How can I make it sound realistic and like people actually talk, but at the same time not like people actually talk (all the um‘s, er‘s, uh‘s, that are no fun to have to read as much as a person says them when talking normally)? It’s a very fine line.

I think one of my issues is that I am so focused on trying to get my dialogue to sound like how people talk. I can hear my characters talking in my head and I want people to read it the way I hear it, but that’s a tough thing to do, for me at least. Like I said, you don’t want to go overboard with the speech illustrations, as I’ll call them – the um, er, uh filler words; the italics; the ellipses; dare I say it, the all caps; or a character accent/dialect – because these can become tedious to read and may distract from what the character is actually saying. Sure, in real life we can um and ah to our heart’s content, people tend to just tune those out, but in written dialogue? It becomes a lot more obvious and some readers will find speech illustrations off-putting.

So how do I write dialogue that is both realistic and still sounds good? That is a constant struggle for me. Would a person ever actually say this? Would my character specifically say this? Back and forth, back and forth, yes, no, ahhhh!

Dialogue can make or break a story. You don’t want your characters sounding like cheesy idiots (unless your character is a cheesy idiot, but even then, what they say still needs to be believable coming from them). Tricky business, dialogue writing.

Any tips or suggestions would be much appreciated. What sort of things do you struggle with when writing?

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2 thoughts on “The Problem with Dialogue

  1. Some interesting questions…I think the best way to know if speech sounds natural is to say it out loud, people have a flow to their words and simply reading makes this difficult to recreate. It’s also tricky to make characters sound different from each other – different words, different rhythm, if I’m not careful my characters all end up sounding like me or people I know.

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