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Posts tagged ‘writing dialogue’

Listen to your characters and use these six dialogue tips to advance your story

Writing dialogue is more than just putting words in your characters’ mouths. Try listening to your characters and find out what they have to say to tell the story. By using this practice of listening, you may find unexpected meaning and your story may go in surprising but satisfying directions.

Here are six tips for writing dialogue:

Show instead of tell. Craft dialogue that shows feelings instead of specifically stating how the characters feel. Whenever you start to use the word “felt,” stop and see how you can show that emotion through dialogue instead of telling the reader how your character felt. This showing technique will put the reader squarely in the action.

Advance the story’s meaning with descriptions of character movement and body language. Show how characters gesture, sit, stand or move around as they talk and how their body language mirrors inner emotions.

Don’t let your characters directly answer each others’ questions. A more indirect approach hints at the story below the surface and adds depth.

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Dialogue tips I learned from reading Elmore Leonard

My favorite books are fantasy, paranormal, some horror, and stories about anything strange or extraordinary. But I’ve also read many classics, crime stories, and mysteries. When another writer told me a few years ago that I should study Elmore Leonard’s novels to see how he writes dialogue, it took me awhile to pick up one of his books, but when I finally did, I was blown away.

My first foray into Leonard territory was the novel Road Dogs about bank robber Jack Foley and street-wise Cundo Rey who meet in prison and quickly become friends, referring to themselves as Road Dogs. Foley is released two weeks before Rey who insists that Foley stay at his home—but warning him not to mess with his girlfriend Dawn (who really just wants to milk Rey out of his money). Below is an excerpt early on in the book, before either man is released from prison. Read more

The art of writing dialogue: Don’t listen to everyday conversations

I’ve heard people who teach writing give advice that if you want to write good dialogue to eavesdrop on people’s conversations in coffee shops, train stations, and other public places.

Personally, I think writing mentor Robert McKee’s advice is more accurate: only eavesdrop on people’s conversations if you want to learn how NOT to write good dialogue. Read more