Editing Dialogue for Naturalness and Relevance

Dialogue, when done well, is the lifeblood of your story. It reveals character, drives the plot, and adds a layer of realism. But if your characters start sounding like automatons or Victorian-era nobility (unless they are Victorian-era nobility), you’ve got a problem. The key to great dialogue is to make it sound natural and ensure it’s relevant to the story.

Natural vs. Unnatural Dialogue: Examples

All you need to remember is that natural dialogue is conversational. It flows and reflects the character’s unique voice.

  • Natural: “What’s up, dude? Ready for the game tonight?”
  • Unnatural: “Good evening, dear friend. Are you adequately prepared for the evening’s sports match?”

Notice how the natural dialogue sounds like something a real person might say, while the unnatural dialogue is stiff and formal.

Tips for Achieving Natural Dialogue During Editing

  1. Listen to real conversations: Take note of the rhythm, the way people interrupt each other, and how they use casual language and shorthand.
  2. Read dialogue out loud: This is one of the best ways to catch unnatural dialogue. If it sounds awkward or stilted when you say it, it will likely read that way, too.
  3. Use contractions: Most people don’t speak in perfectly formed, grammatically correct sentences. They use contractions and incomplete sentences.
  4. Avoid info-dumping: Characters should not give out information that they would realistically assume the other character already knows.

Talk the Talk to Make the Words

Ensuring that your dialogue is natural and relevant can go a long way in creating a believable world for your readers. It makes your characters relatable and drives your narrative forward realistically and engagingly.