Writing Seamless Dialogue (Revisited)

images-2Dialogue should be seamlessly integrated into your story.  It should flow. If you can feel yourself reading then stopping for a brief conversation and then reading again, something isn’t quite right.

Conversation works best when combined with thoughts, actions, and settings.  Don’t separate them but interweave them. People don’t stop to talk, they keep doing what they are doing unless it’s something really important that demands their full attention.

You can integrate by using setting, thoughts, and action in combination with dialogue.


The day had been crazy, but it wasn’t over yet. Mark walked into the conference room and found Ellen sitting at the head of the table preparing packets for their upcoming meeting.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said walking over to offer assistance.

Handing him a few, she looked him in the eye, anger and disappointment written all over her face. “Isn’t that your norm?”

Mark grasped for something to say that would ease the tension between them and get him through this day. Staring at the packets he was at a loss. What she said was true, and he couldn’t explain why. At least not now.

Easing herself up, she walked by him without saying another word.

“Well that didn’t go well at all,” he said quietly to himself as he continued to prepare for the meeting. He would attempt to smooth things over with his secretary later, but for now, he had a business to save.

By interweaving thought, action, setting, and dialogue, the scene moves forward seamlessly. I hope 🙂

If you just use dialogue, you are witnessing a conversation. When you begin to interweave thoughts, actions, settings, and dialogue you are pulling your reader in and making them a participant.

A really good exercise to help understand and follow this concept would be to write a simple conversation with no tags or anything.  Read it. Now go back and add tags. Read it again. Now go back and add more tags or actions. What was the person doing during the conversation? What about the setting.  Where were they during the conversation?  You can even add thoughts. These aren’t conveyed through the conversation but because we are on the outside looking in, we can get a better idea of where the character is coming from.

Hope this helped.

-Jan R

Writing Seamless Dialogue (Revisited)

Do’s And Don’ts of Dialogue

images-2People Do:

  • People interrupt each other a lot.
  • People Rarely complete a sentence at all.
  • People exaggerate, prevaricate, and lie.
  • People pause. Conversations aren’t continuous, silence is important.
  • People use slang words. They also say uh, um, and yeah a lot.
  • People use profanity.
  • People pair verbal communication with body language.

In real conversations, people also chatter endlessly about nothing, but that’s not something you want to include in your novel. Remember dialogue has to move the story forward.

People Don’t:

  • People don’t make long speeches unless of course, they are making a speech. Conversation involves a lot of back and forth, in very short phrases.
  • People don’t talk in long complex sentences.
  • People rarely talk about things they already know unless a question is asked.
  • People rarely say the name of the person they are conversing with and almost never more than once.
  • People don’t use proper grammar during day to day conversations.

Eavesdrop on conversations at the mall, restaurant, church social, coffee house… I think you’re getting the picture. You can pick up some great examples of dialogue for that next best selling novel you are about to write.

Reminder:  Dialogue and conversation are not always the same. It’s important that you know the differences. I would recommend that you visit my blog: Dialogue Vs. Conversation: They’re Not The Same!.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Do’s And Don’ts of Dialogue

Balancing Dialogue and Narrative

dialogue-bullesYou have to find the right balance between dialogue and narrative, especially in the first chapter of your novel. While slow to start openings with a lot of narrative were popular at one time, these days, readers prefer a faster-paced opening.

One way to pick up the pace is to add dialogue. If dialogue just doesn’t work for a particular scene, consider throwing in a line or two of internal thought.

I’m not trying to minimize the importance of narrative. It is very important and necessary for the success of your story. Narrative is used to establish background details, setting, tone, and to set up scenes. However, narrative, by its very nature,  will slow the pace of the story and halt the active momentum.  Too many long sections of narrative will eventually bore the reader.

A quick tip for judging if your novel needs more dialogue is to print out the first chapter. If you see long paragraphs with little white space. You need to add dialogue.

If an agent or publisher sees long paragraphs and no white space, odds are, they are going to toss your work to the side. If a potential customer sees long paragraphs and little to no white space while they skim the pages, odds are, that book is going back on the shelf.  Give your reader some action, get the story moving.

Something to think about.

-Jan R


Balancing Dialogue and Narrative

He Said, She Said-Dialogue Tags

He-Said-She-SaidAt this point in the game, you probably know what a dialogue tag is. It is a phrase placed at the end of a quote to identify the speaker. It should mimic speech’s natural rhythm and make long dialogue-runs digestible.

When using dialogue tags, it is  recommended that you keep them simple. There is nothing wrong with the word ‘said’.  Don’t give in to the urge to use every big word you know. If you do, you will end up with a big, clunky, mess. The wrong tag can overshadow the words spoken and draw your reader out of the story.


“You hit my car!” she screamed.                                                                                                      “It wasn’t my fault!” he groaned.                                                                                                     “But you ran the red light!” She expostulated.                                                                               “I know-I’m sorry,” he stammered.

Could you imagine reading an entire book written this way? I would go nuts.

This example shows how tags can effect your story by slowing down the pace and overshadowing the dialogue. I was hesitating after every tag and imagining the characters going through the emotions.  I couldn’t help myself. And why would anybody use expostulating? Somebody had their thesaurus open 🙂

When you use the words ‘he said’ or ‘she said’, they are so familiar to your reader that they blur into the background and become invisible. This allows the dialogue itself to come to the forefront. You can also drop tags entirely when it’s clear who’s speaking. Overuse of tags can be just as annoying as using the wrong tag.images9d0tdr1t


  • “You hit my car!” she said.
  • “It wasn’t my fault!” he said.
  • “But you ran the red light!”
  • “I know-I’m sorry.”

I hope you thought this example read much smoother than the first. It didn’t distract from what was being said, and you weren’t focusing on the dialogue tags themselves.

There is so much information on dialogue tags. I’m only scratching the surface with this blog.

I’m not saying that you can’t use emotion in a tag, but it is always better to show the character’s emotions through action than it is throwing an adverb into the dialogue tag   ( menacingly, shakily, surprisingly…).

While they are only tags, they play an important role in the mechanics of your story and can lead to some major mistakes if not used appropriately.

-Jan R

He Said, She Said-Dialogue Tags

Show Don’t Tell!

screen-shot-2013-11-20-at-3-24-03-pmI can’t count how many times I’ve heard this phrase. You probably saw the title and questioned reading it. Everybody knows you are suppose to show and not tell. You want the reader to experience the scene as if they are one of the characters walking through the story beside the hero/heroine.

If you’re like me, you know what you’re suppose to do, but you don’t really understand what to do to make it happen. How do I show and not tell? It’s a lot harder than it seems. Once you start writing that novel, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

There are 5 tools for showing

  • Dialogue
  • Action
  • Interior dialogue
  • Interior emotion
  • Description-Sensory

If you’re doing anything that’s not one of these 5 things, you’re not showing.

Why is it so important to show versus tell? Showing provides your reader with a powerful emotional experience. If you want to be a best selling author, that’s what you have to do.

It doesn’t matter how great you do everything else in that novel, if you’re missing that emotional experience, you lose. If everything you did is bad, but you have a great emotional experience, you may still win.

It all comes down to the take away. Every great novelist will tell you, you have to give your reader that powerful emotional experience, or they wont be coming back.

-Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Show Don’t Tell!