Posts Tagged ‘dialogue’

Ideas for Dialogue


When I do character sketches, I include voice:

How do they speak? Soft, deep high-pitched, raspy, fast/slow talker/child’s voice mumble etc.

Do they speak with an accent? foreign/Southern/educated/teen/child etc.

Do they speak differently under different circumstances? Happy/sad/scared/bored/angry

Do they speak differently in different places? School/home/public/work

What kind of vocabulary do they use? Large/simple/slang/work places terms.


I use these as I write and edit. And I read aloud, trying to imitate each character. If a character speaks more than once, I include their voice in a character sketch. When using slang, dialect etc., find a native speaker (E.g. A teen for high school slang) and read it aloud to them.

Dialogue is not just voice or sound:

What are your characters doing while speaking? Washing dishes. Hiking, etc.

Silence is a form of communication. (AKA the silent treatment)

If the POV character chooses to think rather than speak, it is a form of dialogue because it informs the reader the way speech would.

Facial expressions, body language, movements can communicate as much as words.

What is dialogue for?

It either propels the story forward or tells the reader something about the characters. If it doesn’t do either one of these, why is the dialogue there?

Things to forget:

Grammar. Complete sentences.

Answering questions: characters often ignore questions and change the subject, which often tells more than answering the question.

Don’t try to write dialogue that is too real-to-life. The reader doesn’t need every huh, um, etc, speakers say. Writing dialogue is a trick to convince the reader the speech is real. When using dialect, a few hints work better than dialogue that is difficult for anyone to read.

Using exclamation points (let your word choice indicate excitement). Using caps for emphasis (use italics).

Read it aloud:

Dialogue needs a rhythm. Angry or scared words need a faster, frantic pace. Conversation or romance might take a slower, relaxed pace.

People interrupt each other, breaking the rhythm. People are rude to each other.

Beats, tags, or neither?

Beats are actions or gestures that either interrupt or add to the dialogue. Use them but not too often.

Tags should be used ONLY when leaving them out it will confuse the reader. Try to use either said or asked.

Neither. If it is clear who is speaking, and no action or beat is required, then just dialogue is fine (hard to accomplish with more than 2 speakers).

Eights Mask2

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By Janet K. Brown


Here is my diagnosis for making dialogue dynamic:

D Different Goals

The best dialogue comes when two characters desire different goals from the conversation. This increases the tension.

I Interview your characters

Find out how they would answer certain questions even if the questions aren’t posed in your manuscript. This deepens your knowledge of a character’s reaction.

A Action

Fiction and non-fiction are similar to stage plays. Dialogue is more than words. We need gestures, body language, even moments of silence to set the stage.

L Listen to your characters talk

Each character should have a distinctive manner, so readers recognize the speech without putting the name to the line of talk. Educated/use slang? Pet names? Recurrent phrases?

O Out loud reading

Prose and poetry have meter in common. When you read your work out loud, does it have rhythm, cadence, and energy? Is it missing a word or is it three words too long? You can only tell by reading it out loud.

G Go along with the story

Dialogue should fit your story-does it show tension when applicable? Does it fit the mood-teasing & light or dark and heavy? The shorter the piece, the more important to inject a sense of time and place.

U Use of dialogue

Dialogue only has three uses.

  1. Move the story along.
  2. Intensify characterization
  3. Both

If none of these apply, take out the dialogue.

E Eliminate words

Dialogue should be concise. Eliminating words that we’ve slaved over and think are beautiful is hard, but sometimes necessary to strengthen.

One part of speech to eliminate almost totally is Adverbs—like almost totally.

Beats or tags? Which is best? Beats – gestures/body language. Tags – he said – sometimes using neither is best.

Summary advice to helping your dialogue:

  1. Read every day from your favorite writers- both in your chosen genre and in other genres.
  2. Periodically read or reread a writing craft book or take       an online course.
  3. Write something every day even if you delete and restart.

    Janet K. Brown lives in Wichita Falls, Texas with her husband, Charles. Writing became her second career after retiring from medical coding.

    Worth Her Weight is the author’s first inspirational women’s fiction, but it makes a perfect companion to her previously released, Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness. Both books encompass her passion for diet, fitness, and God’s Word.

    Worth Her Weight marks Brown’s third book. Who knew she had a penchant for teens and ghosts? She released her debut novel, an inspirational young adult, Victoria and the Ghost, in July, 2012.

    Janet and her husband love to travel with their RV, work in their church, and visit their three daughters, two sons-in-law and three perfect grandchildren.

    Janet teaches workshops on writing, weight loss, and the historical settings of her teen books.


    Find her at http:/ /www.janetkbrown.com

    On Twitter at https://twitter.com/janetkbrowntx

    On Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Janet-K-Brown-Author/143915285641707

    E-mail: Janet.hope@att.net Victoria and the Ghost By Janet K. Brown

    At fifteen, Victoria, a city girl, loses her mother’s love and copes with country isolation, no friends and no one who cares, until she meets a ghost.

    When her mother leaves the family to become a Dallas trophy wife, Victoria’s dad moves her and her sister to a North Texas farm to herd cattle and raise chickens. Refusing to believe this is more than a temporary set-back, Victoria tries to make new friends which isn’t an easy task. The first one stabs her in the back with gossip and a sharp tongue. Meanwhile, her new stepsister takes Victoria’s place in her mother’s heart. Rejection and anger stalk Victoria like a rattlesnake in the cemetery. Good thing she makes friends with a ghost and through him, a good-looking teenaged cowboy.
    janet 4           Victoria and the Ghost - Cover








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