Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Writing Dialogue

There’s a real art to writing dialogue. You want it to have the feel of a real conversation without it actually being a real conversation. Real conversations are often deadly boring because of all the extraneous words tossed in (um, er, you know, but, see, like).

So what you really want is verisimilitude – something that has the appearance of being true.

You also want to, whenever possible, let the reader fill in the blanks rather than spell everything out. For example, Henry asks June: “Do you know where the suitcase is?”

June could answer, “Yes.”

“Where is it?”

“Over there in the corner.”

This is ponderous and unnecessary. Instead, have June answer, “It’s over there in the corner.” This tells the reader that June indeed knows where the suitcase is. It not only saves words, it saves deadly dull words.

Another trick to good dialogue is answering a question with a question. This raises the tension of a scene. You can’t do it all the time, but it can elevate your story. Now when Henry asks June about the suitcase, June can answer, “Where are you going?”

And Henry can say, “Why do you care?”

We as readers get sucked in to these kinds of conversations. We want to know the answers to these questions also. Take a little time with your dialogue; think about ways to make it pop off the page and your story will become much better as a result.

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