Dialogue: It Matters!!!

real-life-is-sometimes-boring-rarely-conclusive-and-boy-does-the-dialogue-need-work-quote-1I am doing yet another blog on dialogue. It’s one of the most important parts of your novel and will lead to your downfall if not done correctly.

A few important things to keep in mind when writing dialogue:

  • Dialogue is not real speech. It is the illusion of real speech.  Your dialogue should not be wordy or too formal-unless you’re talking to your boss or doing a presentation. Think about how you talk to friends and family. You don’t always use complete sentences. You trip over each other. Sometimes you don’t even get your complete thoughts out because of the constant interruptions.
  • With dialogue, you can choose your words more carefully. When we speak to people, we may  think, I wish I had said this or that, or I wish I had said that differently. Well in Dialogue you can.  Edit your words to say just what you want, but make them sound natural.
  • Fictional dialogue always has a point. You can’t waste words talking about the weather. Your dialogue has to move the story forward.
  • Your characters are not the same and should speak differently. Some people are quiet, others are domineering. Some people only want to talk about themselves, are manipulative and downright unbearable to be around 🙂 Are they educated or uneducated? Are they from Alabama or New York? I think you are getting the picture.
  • A character will even change the way they speak based on who they are having a conversation with. I speak differently to my husband than I do to my son. I speak differently to my boss than I do my friend.
  • Dialogue used for exposition can be tricky.  It is almost always better to try to find another route, unless you have mastered the skill.  In most cases, a narrative summary is a much better choice. Who wants to read three pages of two characters bouncing back and forth explaining what they already know?
  • Try to avoid synonyms for ‘he said, she said’. You know what I’m talking about. She whined, he exploded, she shrieked. All you are doing is driving your reader crazy and calling attention to an action you should be showing. You should even avoid ‘he said, she said’ as much as possible.
  • What’s not said is just as important as what is said.

I can honestly say I have been guilty of breaking all of the rules in writing dialogue, and not in a good way.

I hope this helps some of you newbies out there to avoid some of my more memorable mistakes. Dragging dialogue 🙂 Really!

-Jan R

Dialogue: It Matters!!!

Dialogue Vs. Conversation: They’re Not The Same!

good_dialogueWriting dialogue isn’t as straight forward as it would seem. It was one of the areas I was dinged on when I first submitted my manuscript. According to a literary agent, my dialogue dragged. Basically I wrote out conversations just like real people talk. After taking a few classes and looking at published authors’ work, I did get a grasp of what the literary agent was saying.  My dialogue was weighing the story down and offering unnecessary detail. It caused everything to come to a stop.

Fictional speech is more focused and coherent than real speech. It has a purpose. You can’t just rant and rave about the newest fashion with your friends, unless it’s an integral part of the story that provides information you are going to need later.

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.


The day had been crazy, but it wasn’t over yet. Walking into the conference room, Mark  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 moved forward seamlessly, pulling your reader into the story 🙂

-Jan R


Dialogue Vs. Conversation: They’re Not The Same!