5 for Friday: Dialogue


One of my most favorite things about writing fiction is writing dialogue. I love figuring out how my characters speak. I love portraying how people communicate, and I love, even more, showing the opposite: the lack in communication, the holes in conversation, the things left unsaid. I’m always looking for advice on how to strengthen my dialogue as dialogue really is one of the best ways to establish characterization. And so here are 5 great writers on dialogue from Advice to Writers by Jon Winokur. More knowledge to add to our arsenal. 5 valuable tips to help us create characters. Happy Writing!


“Nouns, verbs, are the workhorses of language. Especially in dialogue, don’t say, ‘she said mincingly,’ or ‘he said boisterously.’ Just say, ‘he said, she said.’”

–John P. Marquand


“Dialogue which does not move the story along, or add to the mood of the story, or have an easily definable reason for being there at all (such as to establish important characterization), should be considered superfluous and therefore cut.”

–Bill Pronzini


“Dialogue that is written in dialect is very tiring to read. If you can do it brilliantly, fine. If other writers read your work and rave about your use of dialect, go for it. But be positive that you do it well, because otherwise it is a lot of work to read short stories or novels that are written in dialect. It makes our necks feel funny.”

–Anne Lamott


1. Dialogue should be brief.

2.  It should add to the reader’s present knowledge.

3. It should eliminate the routine exchanges of ordinary conversation.

4. It should convey a sense of spontaneity but eliminate the repetitiveness of real talk.

5. It should keep the story moving forward.

6. It should be revelatory of the speaker’s character, both directly and indirectly.

7. It should show the relationships among people.

-Elizabeth Bowen


“Dialogue in fiction should be reserved for the culminating moments and regarded as the spray into which the great wave of narrative breaks in curving toward the watcher on the shore.”

–Edith Wharton



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