- It is essential to the story. It must advance the plot, reveal character, and reflect theme.
- It comes from one character to another character. Fictional dialogue must not be seen as an attempt to dump information.
- It has conflict or tension. Bell repeats Hitchcock's principle that great dialogue has the dull parts taken out.
- It sounds just right for the piece. Dialogue should keep readers in the story instead of pulling them out.
- It sounds just right for each character. Consider vocabulary, favorite words and expressions, regionalisms, dialect, and syntax.
- It isn't real life speech. Fictional dialogue must have the suggestion of real speech, but every word is purposeful (careful with um and uh).
- It is compressed. Bells suggests that unless a character has a strong reason to run off at the mouth, strive for crispness in word choice.
- It is rich with subtext. Bell states that "In great dialogue, what is unsaid is as important as what is spoken out loud."
Bell reminds us that dialogue in fiction is another form of character action, where the people we create try to further their agendas.
Let's talk. What's your opinion of these essentials, and do you have any dialogue tips you can share?