Dialogue can transform a told tale into a dynamic story. Characters come alive, subtle clues fall from their lips, and foreshadowing in the subtlest of ways is possible. Speech between characters can show instead of tell, it can highlight tension, and demonstrate emotional responses. But only if it’s executed properly.
In one of my first short stories, “Renegades of Orion” I failed miserably at dialogue. Readers had a hard time deciphering which character was speaking, and my amateurish effort to distinguish their voices made what they said choppy. Most of the dialogue came from talking heads, I had no idea how to ground dialogue in the physical space the characters inhabited.
But I learned. I read lots of books, some about dialogue, and some with great examples of dialogue. Studying authors who’d already mastered their delivery, gave me the tools to write better dialogue. Not only did I think it was better, my critique partners agreed. After writing in a vacuum for so long, then learning my best was far from good, the compliments I got were a welcome reward.
There is more to learn of course, and I’m still reading. Good writers, it turns out, are good readers, first. If the sincerest form of flattery is imitation, I’m trying to flatter the hell out of my favorite authors. So far, it’s working. I can’t wait for more readers to agree.