Readers love books with lots of dialogue and not so much narrative. Good dialogue should never just be idle chit-chat or casual conversation. Dialogue moves the storyline forward and is written specifically to create a certain mood.
In the following edited conversation between Brett and Kimberlee, from Black Cat’s Legacy, she shares her darkest secret.
Kimberlee took a deep breath and sighed. “I’ve had nightmares all my life. I never thought they had anything to do with my father’s death.”
“Nightmares?” Brett wrinkled his forehead. “Go on.”
“I remember now. In my dream…maybe it wasn’t a dream... My father is lying at the foot of the stairs and there’s someone standing in the shadows!”
Brett leaned across the table and took her hand. “You were there? You saw the killer?” His grip tightened on her hand. “You know who it was?”
She shook her head. “I heard voices. I came down the stairs. I remember something red, maybe a piece of clothing? I heard a shot and then I saw his…his… body. That’s all I remember.” She laid her head on her arms. “I never realized what it meant. I thought it was just a nightmare.”
“I can’t imagine how you must feel. I want to help get to the bottom of this. What can I do?” Brett’s voice shook
She lifted her head. Tears ran down her cheeks. “There is one thing, but I hate to ask.”
“Anything. Just name it. How can I help?” A flicker of concern swept across his face. He squeezed her hand.
“Maybe get me a tissue?” Her eyes crinkled in a smile.
What does this dialogue reveal?
In a few short sentences, we learn that Kimberlee never understood the connection between her nightmares and her father’s murder. We feel empathy for her pain. We see Brett’s increasing attraction to her, and suddenly during this tense moment, she delivers a one-liner that hopefully, if I did my job well, makes you smile.
Even more than the narrative in a story, good dialogue can create drama, romance, angst, or humor. If you can put it all in one conversation, go for it!
The reader doesn’t understand the creative effect of what a writer has done or admire their skill of their craft. They just know that as they read, the dialogue makes them feel they are watching the scene unfold, or better yet, they become one with the characters, feeling their joy, their pain, or their sorrow as they are pulled into the story.
The mark of a good book is when the reader reaches “THE END” and wishes there was another 100 pages. The mark of a GREAT book, is when that same reader searches for the sequel or another book by this same author.
Beyond a good plot, a charming setting or appealing characters, writing dialogue that sings is essential to creating this kind of reader’s response. It contributes to the success or failure of a book and to the writer’s career.