Dramaquill's All Things Writing

October 11, 2012

Writing dialogue – how do you approach it?

This week my critique group is having a discussion on writing dialogue as it pertains to characters in novels. We’ve been reading blogs, articles, e-books and sharing information from many sources.

We have collectively come up with a couple of common thoughts:

1. Writing regular folks is much harder than colourful characters

2. Some of us hear the voices in our heads, rather than the more
common method of listening to other people talk.

3. Dialects are hard to write and also hard to read

I write a lot of playscripts for kids and teens. Not only do I have to write a lot of dialogue but I also get to hear it played back during rehearsals. For me, this has been a tremendous way to hear awkward phrases, pick out lines that don’t sound real and to help me create more realistic dialogue.

I suggest trying these two things when you’re approaching dialogue writing:

1. Read it aloud (like you’re acting out the part). What rolls off the tongue
easily? Does anything trip you up?

2. Read some stage plays aloud. Can you tell which character is
speaking just from the type of dialogue?

How do you approach dialogue writing?



  1. Whenever possible, I like to combine an action sentence with a sentence of dialogue, and skip the word ‘said’ altogether.

    Rex tossed the pictures on the desk. “Would you care to explain what you were doing at the bar with Tom?”
    Carol blanched. “Where did you get these?”
    “That’s not important.” Rex crossed his arms, cold eyes glittering. “You promised you wouldn’t see him again.”

    This way, the writing flows more easily. You don’t get trapped in a dialogue-only kind of scene. The short action parts eliminate the need for overused words like ‘said’, ‘cried’, ‘asked’, etc. Every now and again, you can break up the dialogue with a short descriptive paragraph that helps make the setting more real, and which helps the reader keep track of who is speaking, and what is going on. I learned this technique by studying the work of best selling authors like Nora Roberts.

    Comment by SeaLaughing — October 11, 2012 @ 5:00 PM | Reply

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