How to Write Engaging Dialogue

Sep 19, 2023

“How do I write engaging dialogue?” — this is a question that’s troubled most new writers since the dawn of time.

The notion of two individuals engaged in conversation being both intriguing and entertaining may seem far-fetched, but it’s a common occurrence, especially in the world of film. Some of the most memorable moments in great films often revolve around the dialogue. Crafting such captivating and memorable conversations, however, isn’t a skill that comes naturally to every writer.

Fret not; we’ve got you covered with these tips to help you write engaging dialogue that’s also intriguing and relevant to your story.

1. Keep It Short and Sweet

Long-winded dialogues, while they may read fine on paper, can appear stretched on the screen. Aim to keep your dialogues under three lines, conveying essential information while trimming the excess. If your characters have lengthy lines, break them up. Introduce interruptions or employ non-verbal cues like nods, sighs, or frowns to maintain engagement.

2. Give Each Character Their Voice

Just as in real life, each person has a unique way of speaking. Your characters should reflect this diversity. A child’s speech differs from an adult’s, and one character might be loud while another is soft-spoken. Consider even giving characters distinctive catchphrases or expressions; for instance, the expression Ojigbijigbijigbi was unique to Papa Ajasco from the titular Nigerian sitcom, which further defined his individuality.

Papa Ajasco - Write engaging dialogue

Papa Ajasco in “Papa Ajasco & Company”

3. Avoid Forcing Information

Resist the urge to shoehorn information into dialogue. Audiences can often detect when information is forced. It comes across as unnatural. If necessary, find appropriate setups for delivering crucial information. For example, when two long-lost friends catch up, it’s plausible for them to share updates on their lives.

4. Listen to Your Dialogue

Reading your dialogue aloud, and ideally, having others do the same, can provide valuable insights. Step back and gauge how it sounds. Are there repetitive phrases? Does it ring true to life? What’s the impression it leaves? Be attentive to your work and make refinements as needed.

5. Harness the Power of Silence

Silence, often overlooked, is a potent tool in screenwriting. It can convey emotions that words struggle to express. In some situations, it can effectively replace dialogue. For example, when a character chooses not to respond to a question, it hints at underlying tension.

However, it’s crucial to use silence judiciously. Overuse can diminish its impact.

 

In the world of storytelling, dialogue serves as the lifeblood of character interaction and plot development. Mastering how to write engaging dialogue is a journey that requires practice, patience, and a keen ear for human expression. These tips will undoubtedly set you on the path to crafting dialogues that captivate your audience, leaving a lasting impression. So, as you embark on your screenwriting adventure, remember that dialogue is not just words on a page; it’s the voice of your characters and the heartbeat of your story. Keep those creative juices flowing!

 

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