Tips for Drafting Dialogue: Starting Rough

Author:
Publish date:

In the January 2015 Writer’s Digest, contributing editor and award-winning novelist Elizabeth Sims shares simple and effective techniques for polished character conversations in her article “How to Craft Flawless Dialogue.” Here, in this bonus online exclusive sidebar, she outlines her method for getting it written, then getting it right.

--

If you’re the kind of writer who prefers to cut and polish after your first draft is done, here are a few tips to ease you over the uncertainties of dialogue:

  • If, as you’re writing, a whole bunch of dialogue spurts from your pen, let it flow, even if you’re worried it’s too much or awful. Let it out; get it down no matter what.
  • Opposite that, sometimes you know you need a great bit of dialogue here, but nothing’s coming to you. Just summarize and move on, knowing you’ll get back to it. Nancy tells Levi to buzz off. A sentence like this can serve as a summary of a whole breakup scene; all you need is the gist.
  • When it comes time to flesh out that conversation, jot down what needs to be said, scene by scene. Try making mini lists with bullet points: Doug learns from Emily that Jasmine has a long police record. Auto theft? Prostitution? He argues to keep Jasmine in the gang anyway. Outstanding warrants?
  • If a whole conversation seems like overkill for what you need to convey in the scene, you can let your narrator summarize, and add a line or two of talk.

When Emily and Doug met for dinner that night, she told him about Jasmine’s rap sheet. It was impressively long, she noted, peering at him over her wineglass, including grand larceny and soliciting. But that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for keeping Jasmine on the burglary team. They needed her.

“As long as there’s no outstanding warrants against her, we’ll be OK,” he said, stabbing a chunk of steak. “Are there any?”

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 ScriptMag.com, 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.

WD-Poetry-2020-WinnerGraphic

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.

WD-Poetry-2020-WinnerGraphic

The 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 WD Poetry Awards!

GettyImages-163437242

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.