Writing Tip: Two Simple Steps to Better Dialog

Getting dialog right is tough. The way real people speak is remarkably difficult to read. We ramble and imply. We don’t use punctuation or good sentence structure. If you mimic it too accurately, no one will understand what your characters are saying. Instead, we’re always struggling to create clearer, cleaner communication without sacrificing that authentic feel…. It’s not a low bar.

Step one: Record yourself reading your dialog aloud. This isn’t difficult to do. Your phone can probably do it for shorter works. Or for longer stretches using a free program like Audacity can be a great way to go.

Speaking your words aloud will reveal a lot of convoluted and difficult to say phrases. When you find yourself stammering or struggling with a sentence, change it. If it’s hard to read aloud, it’s probably hard to read.

Step Two: listen to your recording. Does it sound like you expected? Does it seem forced? Do you hear yourself struggling with words or phrases you missed when you were reading it? Most of the time, your unnatural words and phrases will stick out. The hardest part of any problem is finding it. Once you know where the trouble spots are you can get to fixing them!

Do you have any tips or techniques for writing good dialog? Share them in the comments!

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