People talk, and in a story, that takes the form of dialogue. There’s little we can do to get around it, especially when multiple characters are involved. And a story with but a single character may still have internal dialogue.
You can certainly write stories without it, but many stories, dare I say most, will probably have a decent amount of dialogue in them. Therefore, we must know how to handle such a delicate craft.
Everyone will develop their own personal dialogue style. This is part of what makes storytelling so special, the uniqueness of each individual tale. But, to help anyone who may be struggling to find what works for them, allow me to share what works for me. It may just nudge you in the direction you’ve been looking for.
However, first thing first. When it comes to conversations, new character equals new paragraph. When someone else starts speaking, it’s time to press Enter. Don’t put two different characters’ words into the same paragraph. This isn’t so much a personal preference as a rule of writing.
Now, when I write dialogue, I try to mix the character’s words into the same paragraph as their actions as much as possible. This helps alleviate overuse of “he said,” “she said.” It also sounds more mature, and less like the books we use to teach children how to talk.
An example of my style in use:
John opened the ominous barrel, greeting his nostrils to the most horrid stench the world had ever known. “Wow. That’s got quite a kick to it?”
The affront to sinuses everywhere reached Jane just as quick, and hit her just as hard. “Uck. What is that?” She tried to wave away the scent, but to no avail. It sunk into her lungs with a desperate, heavy grip.
“I don’t even want to know.”
The first paragraph reveals the first speaker through his interaction with the word, as the next paragraph does for the second speaker, all the while avoiding “he said” and “she said.” After that, it’s clear who’s talking during their brief exchange that follows by the different paragraphs denoting different speakers, even though names are not mentioned.
Again, this is just how I like to write dialogue. My wonderful teachers introduced me to numerous methods, and this was the one I found the most satisfying and intuitive. Writing dialogue can be tricky, and it’s important to develop a style of your own that flows efficiently and is fun to read.
So, get out there and get typing. Find your style and make it shine. There are lots of stories that need telling, and you can’t finish before you start. It’s up to you to put those words on the page and get those characters talking.