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He Said/She Said - How Do You Make Dialogue Compelling – Part 2

Compelling – or effective – dialogue is an essential ingredient in every story because it not only helps to tell the story, it moved it along, it imparts necessary information for the reader, it reveals characterisation and it’s a great way to create conflict and drama.
There are a number of ways writers can do this.
A Sense of Realism
One of the best ways to involve the reader is to give the dialogue a sense of realism. But what does that mean, exactly?
By ‘realism’, there is an expectation from the reader that dialogue will reflect real speech to a degree.So writers can use dialect or accented words, they can use ‘ums’ or ‘ers’, or even hesitations, stutters, or when dialogue is abruptly cut off by interruptions etc., as per these examples:
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I...I tried not to...’ ‘Er, I don’t honestly know,’ he replied. ‘He ‘bin around these parts, ya’ll.’ ‘And to think I ever wan--’
The rule of thumb is simple - don’t overuse them to the point that they become a distraction and therefore ha…

He Said/She Said - How Do You Make Dialogue Compelling – Part 1

It’s every writer’s wish to create compelling and realistic dialogue. It adds to the enjoyment of a story; great dialogue gives it depth and structure, and more importantly for the writer, it accomplishes more than showing the reader conversations. Dialogue doesn’t just tell half of the story – or further the plot – it can move the story forward, it develops relationships, it can create tension, conflict an atmosphere and it can reveal character. It’s one of those things that can show the reader how skilled you are – it’s the difference between great dialogue and bad dialogue, and the latter is a sign that the writer hasn’t yet got to grips with how dialogue works. So, how can you make your dialogue compelling? Well, thankfully, there are multiple ways a writer can do this. He Said/She Said Let’s start with probably the most contentious element – dialogue tags and how they should be used. A dialogue tag is the ‘he said’ or ‘she replied’ etc., tagged on the end of the dialogue. There is a …

Part 2 - Does Your First Chapter Work?

In this second part we’ll continue our look at some of the elements that make a first chapter work. They are considered ‘key’ essentials to grab the reader, agent/publisher’s interest and lure them into reading your book and keep them reading. Introduce Conflict Conflict is the driving force for fiction; it’s at the very heart of every story and so it must be present in your opening chapter, but since conflict comes in all manner of guises, the conflict in question is the character’s main conflict and not the bullets and explosions and all out action kind. In a nutshell, what’s at the heart of the story? What’s the main problem, what must the character do to achieve this and who is standing in their way? That’s the type conflict the reader needs to know, rather than large, full scale conflict that might appear later in the story, because it allows the reader to become involved – they will recognise and understand such conflicts and empathise with your character. And once they do, well, …

Part 1 - Does Your First Chapter Work?

That’s a question we often ask ourselves.Does my first chapter work?Is it interesting or intriguing enough? Would it make the reader want to read the entire book? The first chapter – indeed the opening sentence – needs to work if you want to grab the reader’s interest. It needs to make a statement. It needs to stand out in a huge crowd of other books. In fact, the first chapter needs to establish a number of things before you can consider whether it works or not. So you’ve done a story/chapter outline, you have a solid plot, you have your characters sketched out, you’ve chosen the POV and know the genre and who the target audience is. So now you have to make that first chapter work – regardless of whether you write your story chronologically (in order) or whether you write out of sync. You still need to make an impact and you need to keep the reader interested from the moment of the opening sentence of the first chapter. There are no hard and fast rules, but it’s wise to include an essen…