free the pen, a blog for writers

June 6, 2011

The Best Place to Learn Dialogue

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 10:51 pm

Writing diaglogue can become any writer’s nemesis if the writer thinks she has to re-create the wheel in order to write it. So here is a tip that will take you miles on the journey of writing good dialogue.

**Walk through a shopping mall, sit at a table in the food court, ride a bus, walk on the avenue and just listen. (Don’t use any of the dialogue when someone is speaking on their cell phone because you will only be getting one side of the conversation.) Sit or stand close enough without seeming obvious. After you find two or more people discussing something, while they talk-you write.

That’s it. Isn’t that easy? Just write each person’s words using a different line for each voice and just write down the conversation. When you get home, read it out loud. Notice that you don’t need any of the tag words such as he said, she said or emotional descriptions so overdone by new writers wanting to tell the scenes behind the dialogue. Your story should be telling all the scenes behind the dialogue and the reader should already know the characters and how they would realistically respond in a conversation. Now, write dialogue for your story pretending that you are listening to your characters in a public place. Write out the dialogue for your story with no tags and then read it out loud. If some tag is missing that needs to be there in order to keep the reader from being confused, then certainly, add it in. Usually a dialogue is best when it gives all the information needed within the direct words of the dialogue so tags should only be there to show more about the character in that moment. Only add tags words such as ‘Amy said’ or ‘the waitress said from a corner’ if there would be some doubt from your reader about who was speaking.

One of the biggest mistakes writers make in writing dialogue is telling the reader how the speaker of the dialogue is thinking or feeling. Try to show the reader in another way. For instance,

“I don’t want to have sex yet,” Amy said clearly embarrassed and uncomfortable.

“I don’t want to have sex yet,” Amy said barely audible as she tightly twisted her braid and stared into her plate.

Do you see? Which one lets the reader see and feel that Amy is embarrassed and uncomfortable about giving in to having sex?

Until next time,

Keep the pen free,




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