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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dos and Don'ts of Dialogue

Dialogue is an important part of any story or book. It moves the story along, gives pertinent information and makes the characters more interesting. But is there a time when dialogue is bad?

Yes! Dialogue can either make or break your manuscript - especially to a busy editor reviewing your work for publication. So how can you avoid the pitfalls of dialogue?

  • Use dialogue as an uneventful exchange of words. For example:
Tom: Hi
Mary: Hi
Tom: What's new?
Mary: Nothing
Tom: Oh. OK
Mary: Why?
Tom: No reason.

  • Use too many fancy tags. "he said" and "she said" are almost invisible. If you add too many fancy tags at the end of dialogue, it can get distracting. For Example:
"I won the race," Jack exclaimed.
"How," Mike questioned, "Tim was way ahead of you."
"I had a burst of energy and passed him," Jake squealed.

  • Use tags that you can't speak. For example:
"I'm tired," sighed Amy.
"Me too," breathed Sarah.



  • Use dialogue in a smart way. Use it to move the story forward.
  • Use "invisible" tags such as "he said" and "she said"
  • Make hellos, goodbyes and conversation starters short. If you spend too long on them, the story will drag on.
  • And most of all - DO have FUN with it!


Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Hi Jen,
Thought I'd stop by, as I saw that you are a children's author. Me too. My first middle grade novel is out to publishers now. Good dialogue advise, with good examples. I'm signing up to follow you, would love it if you'd stop by my site, and follow me too if it so moves you. Look forward to reading more.

Trisha said...

Sometimes I'll write a bunch of dialogue, then delete it when I realise it wasn't saying what I wanted it to :P

Jennifer Gladen said...

Thanks Melissa and Trisha. Melissa - good luck with your novel. I hope you hear good news soon.

Trisha - that's a great way to work on dialogue. I do that with my writing as well. It's always good to have more - you can always take away. The excess usually gives you a good back story that can be woven into later.

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