"Jack, it's been ages! How have you been?“
"Just great. How about you?“
"I can't complain. How are the wife and kids?“
How are you liking that new job?“
"Lots of new challenges. I miss the old place,
"And we miss you, believe me."
All right, enough. But you get it, right? Jack and the
other guy used to work together and they haven't
seen each other in a while, so now they're catching
Do you see what's wrong with this? It reads like it
was transcribed verbatim from a real-life exchange. It
won't work in a novel because novels aren't about
real-life conversations. The dialogue needs to move
the story forward.
"What have you heard about the
"All I can tell you, Jack, is that the SEC
asked me a few questions. But we
expected that, didn't we?"
"You didn't tell them about--"
"Of course I didn't tell them. I'm not a
See the difference? Hurry past the
inconsequential stuff and get straight to
the juicy parts. That'll keep your readers
Realistic dialogue is one of the most
powerful tools at a writer's disposal, but
you must remember, nothing pulls the
reader out of a story faster than bad
Having a sense of natural speech patterns is essential to good
dialogue. Start to pay attention to the expressions that people use in
everyday conversation. It should eliminate the routine exchanges of
Dialogue is not exactly like real speech, but it should read like real
speech. Confusing? How do you accomplish that? Alfred Hitchcock
said that a good story was "life, with the dull parts taken out." This
very much applies to dialogue. Edit out the filler words and
unessential dialogue -- that is, the dialogue that doesn't contribute
to the plot in some way.
It shouldn't be obvious to the reader that they're being fed
important facts. Let the story unfold naturally. You don't have to
tell the reader everything up front. Don't be afraid to trust your
reader to remember details from earlier in the story.
Remind your reader that your characters are physical
human beings by grounding their dialogue in the physical
world. What I mean by this is to be sure to add in physical
details to help break up the words on the page. Long
periods of dialogue are easier for the reader's eye when
broken up by description. Help the reader visualize the
characters, as well as hear them.
4. Veering too much beyond "he said/she said" only draws attention to the
tags — and you want the reader's attention centered on your dialogue,
not your ability to think of synonyms for "said." This is a huge downfall
for many-a-writer. I know, we want the reader to understand the
importance of the dialogue, or the intensity, or the vagueness, etc., and
we feel that adding something like: "she said bashfully" will help.
WRONG! The reader’s eyes should brush over them quickly, helping to
keep them in the story, which is exactly where you want them. The tags
are simply there to keep the reader abreast of who is speaking, nothing
Be aware of falling back on stereotypes, and use profanity and slang
sparingly. All of these risk distracting or alienating your reader.
Anything that takes the reader out of the fictional world you're
working so hard to create is not your friend.
Dialogue can be a lot of fun to write, though it can be tough to do well. It’s a good idea to go
back and edit your dialogue carefully after writing the first draft.
That concludes our presentation. I hope you found this to be helpful. Please visit my blog at
http://DeeAnnWaite.blogspot.com for more helpful writing information and tips on this
You can also find me on:
Google Plus: www.plus.google.com/deeannwaite