Perhaps you have a great story to tell, but the dialogue of your characters comes out sounding flat or uncharacteristic of them. Have you ever found yourself wondering how to enrich your dialogue? Whenever I start writing, my dialogue always comes out generic. If your first draft sounds flat with the dialogue, that’s typical! Don’t panic. Draft two and following will fix it. Below is an easy way from transitioning your dialogue from sounding chintzy and generic to sounding rich, having depth, and aiding your plot’s dimension.
When editing your dialogue, you need to think of two things: 1) How to make the dialogue enrich the story, and 2) how to make the dialogue interact with the environment. Let me explain.
Dialogue starts out as placeholder text. Here’s a very simplified example of what I mean: Person 1: “Good morning! How are you?” Person 2: “I’m very fine, thank you! It is nice to be back.” In editing, think about why these characters have come together, what they are doing, and how you can change the dialogue to reflect the meaningfulness of the scene. Revise the dialogue to say: Person 1: “It is a good morning since your return. Did you find the papers I requested?” Person 2: “It is, and yes – I have. But, is there any breakfast, first?”
Note how the generic context has started to be refined by both including environment/cultural reference (i.e. breakfast) and a plot point (i.e. the papers the characters were looking for). Don’t end, there! What separates the pros from the amateurs is the next revision (edits 3, 4, and following). Person 1: “I have awaited this meeting since dawn. Though a beautiful morning, it is only enjoyable since your return. Did you find the papers?” The question, said urgently, was given with a keen and perceptive glance. Person 2: Said with an instructive edge. “Patience; I have what you need but am worn out after the journey.” Looks amused, “Is there any breakfast for your guest?”
Improving dialogue doesn’t necessarily mean lengthening it. It can be a simple change that brings the meaning you desire to your story. The goal of the author is to utilize every sentence of his page, filling it with as much meaning as possible. Sometimes, that is simply describing the weather. When characters comment about the weather, though, their dialogue is a great place to bring plot and environment together in your story. Keep revising!
Your fellow writer,
Joshua A. Reynolds, Proprietor