Readers love dialogue! Get good at it and sell more books.
In romantic fiction all roads lead to communication between two people falling in love. Studies show that readers often skip narration in order to get to dialogue. Although this is true, writers need to balance their scenes using three elements of fiction: dialogue, action and narrative. This is one reason you want to put your character in a scene with other characters as often as possible. Scenes that weave together these three elements engage readers.
Gabbing with someone else, the love interest or a friend, exposes characters in ways they aren't aware of and stimulates them to reveal vital plot information. Isn't this better than a dump which throws readers into a stuper? Dialogue creates intimacy and a sense of immediacy. I used dialogue to begin my romantic suspense, Deadly Alliance:
"You know I love your sportswear designs, right?"
"I'm glad you do." Amy Kintyre sat opposite a buyer, none other than Kira Radner, at a coffee shop in Lake Arrowhead, California. This sudden opportunity to re-launch her sportswear designs gave rise to the jitters, and Amy clutched her hands under the table.
This banter between heroine Amy and a buyer, the reader knows Amy jumps at an opportunity to launch her sportswear designs. The conversation continues and introduces an obstacle, the need for free evenings and weekends in order to sew mock ups for a presentation. There are few jobs in Lake Arrowhead, and she interviews for a bookkeeping job with the hero, Finn Donahue, whom she doesn't like.
Pacing determines your decision to weave dialogue, narrative and action. If you're creating a fast-paced conflict scene between two or more people, you might do well to consider only dialogue, at least for parts of a rapid-fire scene.
Know what your reader wants. Female readers identify with the heroine and want to fall in love with the hero. According to survey results from Romance Writers of America, 84 percent of romance readers are women and 16 percent are men. Male readers veer toward romantic suspense and vicariously enjoy the hero's journey. Romance readers tend to be in the age range of 30 to 60 years-old. She's likely to be married or in a relationship and has an average income of $55,000 per year. Your reader is smart, many with advanced degrees, and has plenty of romance in her life. She simply enjoys romance. Most of these women work at jobs. She might be single and must work, but if married, it's insanely difficult for a middle class family to get by without two salaries these days. Whether staying at home, working from home or working in an office, many women turn to romance novels for some entertainment, escape and relaxation at the end of the day.
Your reader recognizes well-crafted writing and appreciates a surprising turn of a common phrase. Easy reading is difficult writing and makes the reader forget she's reading while being transported into a story. While the hero and heroine communicates, she feels their feelings, and wants to read more from this author.
What can an author do to entice the reader to keep turning pages? Create characters and their dilemmas so real, so intriguing that your readers keep reading. Before writing dialogue, narrative, and action scenes, you need characters.
Give them specific fears, desires, and secrets. You want them to be both interesting and likable but with conflicts that your readers can understand if they were in the same boat. Readers don't mind if the hero is a little rough around the edges or even if he's his own worst enemy. Finn Donahue, my hero in Deadly Alliance, is damaged after his mother walked out when he was in diapers. He doesn't trust women and wants them in his bed, not his life. Your hero can be quirky and difficult. The reader wants a hero so strong, so fascinating that she (and your heroine) can't look away. He must sweep the heroine off her feet. He might be cool but passionate, loving, tender but strong, a take-charge guy who is everything most women are looking for all rolled up on one gorgeous athletic package. If you are writing a romantic suspense, the hero needs to solve the mystery and get the bad guy.
The heroine might be a girl-next-door but needs to be smart. Lily Holmes in my novella, Lily's Pad, is also the name of her bistro. Lily knows how to attract business and shines at it. Before you create your heroine, know why she acts and feels a certain way. What events in her life have impacted her? Sift in minimal back story, possibly in a conversation. She must have self respect and value herself. She does not do things for the sake of a man's needs or desires, but rather for her own needs. If she does not agree with someone or something, she says it. If she does not want to be in a toxic relationship, she will not be in one. Having the power to say "No" can be riveting quality. She has goals. Amy Kintyre in Deadly Alliance aspires to get her sportswear design business back on track. She believes her pockets that hold a Swiss army knife and penlight are useful. They are and help her fight off an aggressor. Battles don't have to be as big and unrealistic as slaying a dragon. Amy is independent yet open for support if she needs it. Let your heroine be victorious without the help of a hero! It's great if you can get both the hero and heroine to fight a villain off in unison, however it isn't necessary to do so. Also, remember that battles don't have to be as big or unrealistic as slaying a dragon or killing a villain. Allow her to be independent yet also be open to support if she does need it.
Here are some stereotypes to avoid when you create your heroine: a man hating feminist, a no-brain ditzy dependent or the opposite, an overly brainy nerd. She can't be too perfect.
Only after you know your characters, can you confront them with the most harrowing situation for their personalities. Allow me to share that our writer voice must stay out of the way.
Just as the mirror scene (used to describe what the POV character looks like) is a novice giveaway, a beginner tells the story rather than letting it unfold. Not only does this snapshot interrupt the scene, it reminds the reader that the author stopped to tell them something. Only give a physical description if a character has a reason to acknowledge it. A hero might notice the thick, curly red hair of a girl he has a crush on. Lace it in if it applies to the moment. A heroine probably won't notice her own hair. This passage is forced:
"Becky tried to keep her cool, tossing her long, faded-red hair over her shoulder." Would she be thinking about the exact tone of her hair? She might just toss her hair to convey a certain attitude. It's better to use dialogue with another character. Let Becky say, "Come with me. Let's go!"
This flows right into the story and keeps the writer invisible. It's better to avoid the description dump for your character and instead give your character a chance to show their appearance through voice and action. You might add:
Becky tried to keep her cool, tossing her hair over her shoulder. But a long strand swung too far around her head and whipped her in the eye, earning a smirk from Sally.
"Gosh. You look like you're sporting a red mustache."
There, writer, you got it said. Becky has red hair.
The best stories are about interesting people thrown into terrible situations. Writers use their imaginations but keep a sense of reality in mind for reader acceptance.
Dialogue is give and take conversation that allows two people to explore problems and resolve them. Their attraction can't go away while they confront issues. Readers love snappy dialogue. Don't water down feelings and wander around in the past. Keep to the topic current between them. Maybe the problem they're resolving now is symbolic. Keep banter direct enough to be understood by the reader. Have you noticed some authors pad dialogue with so much irrelevant mumbo jumbo that it takes a heroic effort just to slog through each chapter? Soon the confused reader can't make sense of the couple's core issue. Slice the blubber and get rid of the bloated and bombastic, and you will be left with a high-octane, svelt interchange between hero and heroine. Communication between a couple is at the heart of a romance.
Meaningful communication or miscommunication moves the love story along in various directions. Many readers skip narrative in order to get to what they say and how they say it. Fast-paced, exciting dialogue is at the core, but it's only professionally written if it carries the plot forward. Dialogue entertains but needs to matter to the story. Characters do not behave or sound alike.