Whether you call it repartee, banter, or back and forth, witty dialogue is a great way to pull readers into your story. But wit is only going to go so far, and, if you want to keep your readers involved, this type of dialogue has be more than amusing. Here are three tips to make it sing:
In real life, something truly genius is said only once in a very long conversation. Witty? That can also take a while to come about. More often than not, we think of the truly gifted retort only hours later. But when you are crafting dialogue for your story, you need to get there much faster. We’ve all suffered through painful conversations but your readers have to do that in life. They don’t want to do it in literature.
Unless you make it matter. Does your character make a blunder that reveals something they found out by snooping. Do it! But again, do it fairly fast.
Don’t Shut the Reader Out
Often banter in real life revolves around being on the inside. I’m in my church choir. My friend and I are horrible with the banter and the inside jokes. Ninety percent of the time no one else knows what we are talking about. We have to limit it because we don’t want to other people to feel like outsiders.
If another character feels like an outsider, that is one thing. But you have to make sure that your reader knows what is going on and is in on the joke.
Make It Matter
Again, this is one of those times that real life and literature diverge. Witty repartee in real life is fine for its own sake. For your story, you need to make it matter. Are your characters flirting? That’s fine as long as the sexual attraction means something to the story or is a distraction, a red herring.
Or maybe your character is hinting at something that they know. It could be a means of threatening another character, “I know something you don’t want to get out.” Or it could be a fishing expedition because your character thinks that they may know something. If only they can get their verbal opponent to slip up.
Banter is amusing. There’s no doubt about it. But remember that as a writer you have to make every word count – even the clever ones.