22 Simple Ways to Use and Craft Bomb Dialogue
(Pin this Post to Read Later)
Crafting great dialogue that progresses the plot of a story can indeed be a challenge. If we’re honest, crafting bomb dialogue is as simple as it is difficult.
Simple - because dialogue is like any conversation you’ve had with any other human being. Your speech and conversations have a natural rhythm to them. The way they begin. The slang that is used. The inserts here and there of the shock factor. Added humor.
When talking to others, especially if you’re an extrovert, dialogue comes easy. Then comes the difficult part. Turning this easy communication into *written* dialogue. This is tough and some writers toss the ordeal out of the window. They don’t feel like dealing with it… so, they don’t.
Today’s article is meant to help you learn 22 simple ways to use and craft bomb dialogue. Let’s dive in so you can get back to crafting great conversations in your stories.
1. Use it to avoid info-dumping
Readers are not a fan of info-dumping. So, don’t do it. If you’re not sure what “info dumping” is, it’s simple. It’s the act of detailing an immense amount of information all at once.
For example: Your characters are in their local cafe. Then one of them begins to talk about their past. And instead of sharing relevant snippets that add urgency, tension, give a bit of foreshadowing, or advance the plot, it turns into a long preamble detailing way too much about everything at one time in the scene.
This is info-dumping, and a no no. Avoid this in your dialogue.
2. Listen to real conversations
This is majorly important. If you are not great at conversation, or you’re stuck with what your characters should be saying: listen to real conversations. If you’re not the type to go out into the real world and listen, stay home and throw on a movie or a TV show - *the GOOD ones* - and pay very close attention to the dialogue.
Yes, watch to be entertained. But, watch to learn. Listen to how the characters interact with one another. From these lessons, apply what you have gleaned to your dialogue to freshen your dialogue.
3. Slang is okay, sis
Slang is a-okay, fam! Now, granted. You don’t want to have so much slang, that your readers can hardly follow the conversation. Or it’s not becoming of your characters. Use slang when it’s appropriate. Just think - no matter how dignified people are, when they’re comfortable, their barriers drop and they often slip into slang when speaking to those they trust.
Allow the same natural flows of conversation for your characters. If they’re in a safe space, or among those they’re comfortable with, feel free to allow for some slang in their language to lighten the dialogue and keep it interesting.
4. Avoid accent overkill
If you plan to have accents, have at it! Just don’t overdo it, ‘cause ain’ nobody got err all time tah learn what yerr characters are ere sayin’. You feel me? Don’t overwhelm your readers. Use your accents conservatively. Do enough to where readers understand those speaking have an accent. But not too much where it’s downright overbearing and drags the dialogue.
5. Your characters don’t need to be verbose
Less is more. No matter how much you love being descriptive, once again, refer to very real conversations. You would be hard pressed to find someone speaking with the statements, “The water was crystalline blue, and glistened like like diamonds reflecting in the shadows of the sun.”
Beautiful as this may be, it’s not natural. However if you opted for, “The water was blue,” it would be much better. This is a gross simplification, but eliminating unnecessary descriptions from the vernacular will serve you well.
6. Opt out of filler dialogue
If it’s filler, cut it. You know if it’s filler. Whether the words were added to meet a word count. Or you weren’t sure of what to do with the dialogue in some parts of the manuscript while drafting, so you rambled on. Whatever the cause or reason - filler isn’t necessary. Info dumps. Too many descriptions. Too much chatter among the characters that stagnate movement and slow down the progression of the plot.
Wherever you find filler dialogue, trim it down. If what the character is saying can still be said and be complete with half of what was said, than make sure to do so. Filler dialogue does nothing but give readers a headache and eye roll they don’t need. Plus, it takes away from the mastery of the story. Nobody wins that way, friend!
7. Said isn’t dead!
More often than not it is better to use “said” than anything else. It’s the dialogue tag of choice that alludes to the speaker, while also highlighting the essence of the speaker’s emotions, actions, all without disrupting the flow of the story.
8. Incorporate physical and emotional beats
Beats in storytelling help you show rather than tell. Beyond enhancing the dialogue, it allows the reader to be immersed in the emotion and physicality of the story. Beats are responsible for your favorite stories, when you ponder on the dialogue. Why? Because instead of being told, you were shown. And this caused you to feel it yourself.
Example 1: “By God, I told you I won’t go!” Christina shouted, outraged.
Example 2: Christina threw the lamp across the room, nostrils flaring. “I told you I won’t go!”
9. Stray from name dropping
When approaching someone to greet them, we hardly use their names. Generally we use gestures, body language, or an inside joke. Quick eye contact is made, what needs to be said is said, and we move on. Apply this to your dialogue.
It isn’t natural for characters to constantly be addressing one another by name. The story should already highlight who is about to speak, to who, and what kind of relationship they have. This way, the dialogue that is shared simply amplifies what was already gathered from context clues.
10. Make sure it adds to the plot
If you find the dialogue does not advance your plot, trim it. Dialogue takes us into the world of the characters, but it’s greatest purpose is to advance the plot. For example, the characters deliberating over which meat to buy in the market does nothing to advance the plot. But, the characters deliberating over what meat to buy because they’re heavily taxed from their oppressive government, and they have just enough to afford some for the first time in months, is a completely different take. What the dialogue highlights and reveals is important. Be sure it advances the plot at all opportunities.
11. Avoid being redundant
If you’re going to say something like, “That’s exciting!” There is no need to add, “Anya shrieked.” This is redundant. The acknowledgment of excitement is already there so the action tag is unnecessary. By default, the action tag is a better choice since it will strengthen the dialogue. Instead of the character saying what they feel, allow the action tag to show it instead.
12. Use dialogue to break up narrative
Ever read page after page after page of narrative, to the point your head is full and your brain begins to tap out from the story? Right. That is when dialogue becomes a saving grace.
Insert dialogue to break up the constant narrative flow. Throw your characters in a banter. Let them reminisce. Get them plotting about the next step in their plans. When faced with a plethora of narrative text, insert a bit of dialogue. This keeps the reader engaged and enhances the story’s pace.
13. Read dialogue aloud
Feel like your dialogue sounds funky? Doesn’t make sense? There isn’t a natural flow? Doesn’t roll off the tongue easily in your mind? Read it aloud. Reading the dialogue aloud can help spot clunky dialogue, as well as reveal what doesn’t make sense. This is also a great way for catching what wouldn’t sound natural in conversation, and also to see if too much or too little has been revealed through the course of the dialogue.
14. Use effective dialogue tags
Dialogue tags attribute lines of dialogue to the desired character. The most common is, “said”. Without blowing the story’s pace out of the water, dialogue tags can be used to clarify the speaker, the actions, and the emotions coming across through the dialogue.
15. Not everything needs to be said
This goes back to info dumping and being too verbose. There are some things that don’t need to be said between your characters. Some should be inferred, and others should be hinted at. Addressing the elephant in the room without calling it out by name. Do your best to trim away. If you need to say some things, or you find yourself saying too much to where you give away too much too soon, cut it.
16. Formatting is important
How you structure your dialogue matters. Be sure to break lines if a different character is speaking. Run from obnoxious run on sentences. Be clear with your POV’s to avoid confusion.
17. Don’t forget the funnies
This is important. You don’t want dry dialogue. Oftentimes, some of the most profound pieces of dialogue we remember from stories, are those that were laced with humor. Even if what the characters are discussing is gut-wrenching, traces of humor adds a necessary levity to the conversation.
This adds realism for the character, and depth for the reader. Be sure to review your dialogue, and make sure there’s ample humor. Does every moment of conversation need humor? Certainly not. But the lack thereof will be a detriment to your dialogue and overall story.
18. Flashbacks and backstory is okay
Dialogue is a great way to reveal backstory for your characters and their world. In dialogue, as the character’s converse, the world they live in can be revealed, as well as the struggles and joys of living in that world.
Be sure to use conversation to explain certain things - why your characters have the worldview they do; Why the characters have the motives they do; What took place prior in the world that is causing the characters to move forward with the plot that is being detailed. Dialogue is a great way for vital information to be shared without being awkward, forced, or feeling like an unnecessary info dump.
19. Hint at characterization
Use dialogue to reveal characterization. As the characters communicate, reveal the personalities of the characters. Reveal their worldviews, their quirks, their idiosyncrasies, pet peeves, and so on.
20. Reveal relationship and friendship
Use your dialogue to show the relationships between your characters. The friendships that are there… or lack thereof. With snippets of banter, your characters can reveal they find one another annoying. With harsh jabs, they can reveal they hate one another. With words of affection, they can reveal the love they feel in their heart. Use dialogue expertly to detail where the characters stand. Who is the alpha in the scene, who are the loyal followers, and who are the problem prospects.
21. Conflict is still king
Your characters blabbing on about things they feel doesn’t add to the plot. Them blabbing on about what they think, or what they see happening with no solutions, doesn’t add to the plot. The characters blabbing on about anything, whether in the past, present, or what they presume for the future - if it doesn’t add to the plot, it’s useless in your dialogue and will just drag things out. Not to mention, without tension, the conversation turns into a snoozefest. Be sure to add conflict in your dialogue.
22. Adhere to the scene’s tension or lack thereof
Take advantage of the tension that has been built up in your scenes. Use them to feed the dialogue. If the communication can be contentious based on rising tensions, use this to your advantage. Every word the character says will be relevant. Tense scenes are great for prompting foreshadowing or characterization. Be sure to capitalize on it, and if appropriate, wherever there is such a tense scene, include dialogue.
Dialogue can be difficult, but with a bit more insight and a few ideas, breaking down the concept becomes easier, and cultivating it becomes more seamless. Be sure to review your story, most especially the vital scenes - those with pressure, tension, conflict - and notice if there is dialogue. If not, but dialogue would *add* to the story, be sure to add dialogue. Even if it’s a snippet, add it.
Writers, like you, who know
Dang well they Can't pants
their way through their novel.
The Pathway From Idea to Manuscript Raodmap, 'fo free!
Sup fam! I'm Stephanie BwaBwa, a pretty simple gal who happens to be a YA fantasy author and has no shame drinking coffee and writing all day. I like helping fellow writers wade through the waters of crafting their stories (I mean let's face it, you have yet ANOTHER trilogy burning in the back of your brain), because, priorities.