Listening for Great Dialogue

Publish date:

Writer's Little Instruction Book: Craft & Technique by Paul Raymond Martin

You know more about writing dialogue than you think. After all, you listen to the dialogue of "characters" in your life all the time. You recognize when someone says something "out of character." You recognize when someone is putting on airs of talking down to you or affecting a false manner of speaking.

Image placeholder title

As Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, advises, give yourself permission to experience the world as a writer. For example, carry a notebook with you, and write down bits of dialogue, especially if the manner of speech is unlike your own. Later, type your notes (without editing) into a dialogue file. The typing and transposing will engrain into your writerly brain a range of character voices on paper.

In taking my order for breakfast one morning, a waitress mocked the menu by asking, "And how would you like those farm-fresh eggs?" Next she asked, "And what part of the pig would you like this morning?"

I could never hope to make up dialogue that would so economically reveal attitude and personality. I didn't have to. I paid attention and wrote it down.

From Script

A Fond Farewell to Netflix’s Lucifer, Writing Video Games, and Do Experts Stand in the Way of Your Writing Goals?: From Script

In this week’s round up brought to us by, exclusive interviews with Lucifer TV writer Chris Rafferty and video game writer Ian Ryan. Plus, learn about screenwriting trailblazer France Goodrich Hacket, who co-wrote It’s a Wonderful Life, and advice on when and when not to approach a writing expert to reach your writing goals.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Misusing Dialogue Tags

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Misusing Dialogue Tags

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is misusing dialogue tags.

Poetic Forms

Boketto: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, Walter J. Wojtanik shares his relatively new form, the boketto.

Paul Neilan: On Implementing Dark Humor

Paul Neilan: On Implementing Dark Humor

In this article, author Paul Neilan explains how he came up with the idea for his mystery and dark comedy novel The Hollywood Spiral.


Deborah Hall, 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winner

The winner of the 2020 Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards discusses the inspiration behind her first-place poem, “The Loneliest Whale."

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Split Up

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Split Up

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have your characters split up.

Kerry Winfrey: On Writing a Romance that's Cozy and Comforting

Kerry Winfrey: On Writing a Romance that's Cozy and Comforting

Author Kerry Winfrey wrote her latest romance, Very Sincerely Yours, during the 2020 pandemic to comfort herself. Here, she's explaining why that tone is important for readers.


The 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 WD Poetry Awards!


Your Story #113

Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.