As I’m sure you well know, dialogue can be one of the most difficult things you will ever encounter in your writing endeavors. Dialogue is notoriously prickly and can be very challenging to get write. Good dialogue crackles and spit off the page, it reveals connections between your characters and intricacies of your plot, and it must — of course — be organic. But what does it mean for dialogue to be organic? It means that when your characters are speaking, readers can picture them having a conversation; that the dialogue sounds like real people could speak it and it would make sense; and that it entertains while also informing.
There are several ways you can achieve this. A recent article at the Creative Writing Collective took a look at this problem and presented 9 Tricks for Writing Organic Dialogue. My personal favorite came in at number three on their list.
3. Doing Things
It’s very rare that people stand rigid and stare at one another as they speak. In fact, since speaking occupies only our mouths, it’s more than common that we continue on other tasks while we talk. What were you doing the last time you had a long conversation? Did you organize your desk? Did you let your eyes wander around the room? Were you enjoying a pint? Were you landscaping your yard?
This is a great technique for writing dialogue and it’s one that I very often utilize in my own writing. As the tip here states, people don’t just stand around and talk. Even if they’re sitting down together to have a discussion, two characters might be drinking coffee or jotting down notes, or even checking their phones. Incorporate these actions into what your characters are saying and not only will you create organic dialogue, you’ll also paint a more cinematic picture for your readers.
Best of luck with your dialogue!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan