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16 Observations About Real Dialogue

Dialogue can make your story. In fact, as Shakespeare knew, you can tell a whole story just through dialogue.

Good stories are about real people, and real people love to talk to each other. We are biologically disposed to receive pleasure from conversation.

If you want to write good stories, learn how to write good dialogue.

16 Tips About Real Dialogue

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Dialogue is a Skill

And skills can be learned. You may not write good dialogue now, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to write bad dialogue forever.

When I first started working seriously on my writing, I would go into coffee shops, eavesdrop on conversations, and write down everything people said.

This helped me begin to understand how real dialogue worked, but it wasn’t enough. Before I could write dialogue well, I had to ask WHY. Why did this person say this thing? Why did that person reply like that? How did they get on this subject in the first place?

I eavesdropped on conversations for months. It was actually a little creepy. But it’s taught me so much about how real dialogue works.

Here are sixteen things I’ve learned about realistic dialogue:

1. Real People Say Random Things

As writers, we want our characters to talk about things central to our plot, but humans are weird. They don’t talk about important things. More often than not, they talk about mundane things like the weather.

To write realistically random dialogue without losing track of your plot, have your characters begin a conversation about something random, and then circle around to the important parts of your plot.

2. Real People Bicker

I’m sure some people manage to be nice to each other all the time, but in my experience, the closer you are to someone, the more you bicker. Bickering rarely turns into full arguments. It’s more like a constant buzz of tension.

3. Real People Don’t Have Long Monologues

I know you want to show off your exquisite writing skills with a long speech, but in normal situations, real people don’t like making speeches. They feel uncomfortable when they’re the only one talking for a long time.

If you want to write a speech, you need to create some kind of excuse for your character to give the speech. Perhaps he just won an award or he’s about to go on a long trip or he’s dying and wants to share his last words or he’s a priest and he gives speeches every Sunday.

4. Real People Don’t Always Hear You

Real people are hard of hearing. Real people have lawnmowers go by them in the middle of their conversations. Real people say, “What’s that? Huh? What did you say? Come again? Sorry, what?”

5. Real People Refuse to Repeat Themselves

Sometimes, when the other person can’t hear and says, “Huh? What did you say?” real people don’t repeat themselves. They say, “Nothing. It’s not important. Never mind. I’ll tell you later. Forget it.”

Sometimes, this leads to bickering.

This technique is especially effective if a character has just said something vulnerable. People will rarely repeat something embarrassing or hurtful or vulgar. You can draw attention to their vulnerability by having them refuse to repeat themselves.

6. Real People Don’t Always Reply

Sometimes, someone will say something like, “Man, it’s a beautiful day,” and then wait for the other person to respond. Usually, the other person says, “Yeah, gorgeous, right?” But sometimes the other person doesn’t say anything. They just grunt or roll their eyes or stare out the window.

People learn how to do this as teenagers, and it’s a good way to show underlying tension.

7. Real People Use Nicknames

No one calls you by your first, middle, and last name. So don’t use whole names in your dialogue.

8. Real People Cuss

Some people are very sensitive to curse words, and I get it. But real people pepper curse words throughout their speech, and if you want to write realistically, you need to think seriously about interjecting an occasional D-word in your dialogue.

9. Real People Speak in Tangents

I know you’re a grammar snob and you only speak (and write) in complete sentences, but that doesn’t mean your characters do, too. Let the rules go when you’re writing dialogue. Seriously.

10. Real People Lose Track of Time and Their Surroundings When They Talk

Don’t intersperse your dialogue wit a lot of description or action. Your characters aren’t noticing what they’re doing or what they’re seeing. They’re paying attention to the conversation. If you’re using any kind of deep viewpoint (i.e. third-person limited), your narration should be paying attention to the conversation, too.

11. Real People Exaggerate

Real people don’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They don’t exactly lie either. They just leave things out and exaggerate to make themselves look better. It might be morally questionable, but it’s very human. (And you’re writing about humans, aren’t you?)

12. Real People Tell Stories

The only time you can write long speeches is when your character is telling a story. People love to tell stories, especially stories about themselves. Sometimes, people will even listen to them.

William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, the author of Arabian Nights, and many others have exploited this with the literary technique of the Story within a StoryHeart of Darkness is basically one long monologue about an experience a sailor had on his travels (in fact, it’s a monologue about a monologue). The majority of Arabian Nights is a woman telling stories to her murderous husband. Often, in these situations, the author allows us to forget we are actually reading dialogue. All the speaker tags would get really old. Every once in a while, though, another character will make an interjection and remind us.

13. Real People Have Accents

But remember, writing in an accent can be extremely annoying to read, not to mention distracting. Feel free to experiment with accents, but don’t be surprised if your readers don’t appreciate it.

14. Real People Talk When No One is Listening

Even when people don’t reply, real people keep talking anyway. This is a great way to show annoyance, if your character’s lecturing someone, or insecurity, if he can’t stand the sound of silence, or even social awkwardness, if he can’t pick up on social cues.

15. Real People Don’t Talk at All

Sometimes, real people are too mad or too nervous or too sullen or too much of a teenager to talk. Don’t make your characters talk if they don’t want it.

16. Real People Say Less Than They Feel

In the end, dialogue isn’t the best tool for developing a plot because real people are unpredictable. They rarely speak about the things closest to them. They rarely speak about their vulnerabilities.  They often talk about the most superficial, irrelevant subjects. Real people say less they feel, which makes it very difficult to get emotion, sentiment, and transformation across through dialogue.

The key is to get your characters into a situation where they’re so broken, so destitute, so screwed up that they’ll say anything. And perhaps that’s why we read fiction anyway, to hear people say exactly what’s on their mind.

What are your favorite observations about realistic dialogue?

PRACTICE

Write a piece of dialogue using the observations above.

Write for fifteen minutes. Afterward, ask yourself whether it sounds like the way real people talk. Is it realistic or are you trying to get your characters to say what you want them to say?

When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please give some feedback to a few other writers about whether their dialogue sounds realistic or not.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

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  • http://twitter.com/marvelyne marvelyne ‘mE’ engel

    Great article! Thank you!

  • Pampalm

    Great article.  I found it very interesting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=772324913 Hugh Williams

    As a software developer, I recently did some work on a tool to help transcribe dialogue from recorded audio. In testing it, I was shocked at the way real-world dialogue looks in print — it’s horrible! I became terribly frustrated with all the fragments, repeated phrases, false starts (in which a person starts to say something, stops, and says something completely different), and other oddities.

    The important thing for writers is to understand that you don’t even notice that sort of thing when you hear it, but it is super-frustrating to read. For that reason, I think it’s helpful as a writer to become aware of the way real-world dialogue works, but your readers will hate you if you become a slave to it.

    Another one I’d add to this list is that people don’t answer questions they’ve been asked. They talk long enough to sound like they’ve answered a question, but all they did was make a lot of sounds.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Great observations, Hugh! Soy fascinating, and after transcribing dozens of hours interviews and conversations for articles and ghostwriting I definitely agree with you.

    • wendy2020

      This was very interesting.  And I get it.

      I used to screen through hours of videotape, looking for usable snippets to be including in “highlight reels” of conferences and training seminars.  Amazing how few high moments there really were.

    • Alexandra

       I like this last sentence here. A lot of people are incapable of saying I don’t know, so they make something up, put a little salt and sugar on it to improve the taste, and let it go. And most people accept the B.S. without question. I see this a lot, especially in regards to religion, politics, and other topics that so often people think they know more about than they really do and are unable to admit when they don’t know.

  • http://twitter.com/wendywallace Wendy Wallace

    Hey Joe, can I ask for your advice?

    Your blog post came at the perfect time. I’m in the midst of thinking about polishing my dialogue writing skills. Even though I write novels and short stories, I find myself looking toward screenwriting instruction for guidance. When it comes to dialogue, do you think the format used in screenplays can be applied to fiction?

    P.S: You may not remember, but a few weeks ago, in a comment, I wrote about going to the Robert McKee seminar. It was exhausting, but life changing, Joe. You should seriously consider going to it in NYC in April.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Hi Wendy! I DO think fiction writers can learn a lot about dialogue from screenwriting, but what do you mean by formatting? Like the way it looks? 

      Ugh I’m so jealous! I’d love to go. You want to give me $1,000 so I can? :)

      • http://twitter.com/wendywallace Wendy Wallace

         Thanks, Joe!

        Re: Formatting: I wasn’t so much thinking of formatting, as in how it looks on the page. I was more thinking about how, in movies a lot of the dialogue is, for lack of a better term, rapid fire. Often times, I see fiction writers try to include a lot of exposition within the dialogue which leads to long paragraphs of dialogue rather than long paragraphs of description. Personally, I like the idea of rapid fire better and appreciate how it moves the story forward much faster.

        OMG Joe! You and us loyal readers need to come up with an idea to help get you the money to go. You still have six months to make it happen!

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          I gotcha. Yes, exposition is a tricky thing, and both screenwriters and novelists need to treat it like dynamite, a little goes a very long way. I wouldn’t say screenwriters don’t use it though. Go watch any crime show and pay attention to how the detectives give each other (and the audience) all this information about the murder through dialogue. Detectives don’t talk like that! But you have to give the audience the information somehow.

          So yes, long paragraphs of dialogue, too much exposition, description, etc, all that’s bad.

          Also, you’ll notice that whenever screenwriter’s have to give exposition, they do it in, like, Egypt or in the middle of a chase scene or while the characters are getting shot at. Exposition is boring and so you have to offset it with excitement. Novelists can and do do that too.

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          Oh and if you can figure out a way to get me to NYC or LA for Robert McKee, I will definitely be okay with that. :)

  • http://www.pjreece.ca/blog/wordpress/category/blog Pjreece

    In my experience, dialogue always improves radically during my many rewrites.  It always gets pared down to the bare essentials.  It starts to sing. It really can be musical. Maybe that’s one of its secret purposes. Dialogue makes music of our prose.

  • Marla4

    He called from a payphone. 
    “The rain is wet,” he said, like code I was supposed to decipher.

    “It’s dry here,” I said.

    “And lonely?” he asked.

    “Desperately,” I said.

    In the background, the semis rolled by.  I could hear a woman, the high tremble of her
    voice like a bird.

    “You’re not alone,” I said.

    “Not exactly.”

    “Then why are you calling me?”

    “I can’t not call,” he said. 

    I sat down, right on the floor.  “Who is she?” I asked.

    “She’s an Ashley or a Tiffany. The details are sketchy.” A
    little laugh escaped him, a little puff of humor. “She needed a ride, just to
    Memphis.  Got a baby there, or a sick
    mama. Like I said, the details are sketchy.”

    “Where’d she sleep last night?” I asked.

    “Come on,” he said. “The reason we work is that you don’t
    ask me questions like that.”

    I ran my fingers through my hair.  Lately, I’d been scratching my scalp until it
    bled and there were sores that I continued to work.  If I kept it up, I’d start pulling out my
    hair again.

    “I know,” I said. “I know.”

    “And you can do whatever you want when I’m away. I like
    thinking that you do. I like thinking somebody else’s hands are on you.  You know that. It keeps us from going stale.
    Last thing we need. That’s why you left King. That’s what you told me.”

    My heart pounded.  I
    hated this speech, and every time I heard it, I wanted to say something that
    would make it all right between us.  I
    never did.

    Finally, I said “I love you,” my voice weak, like a kid in
    trouble, and knew this was the worst wrong thing I had ever said.

    “I gotta go,” he said, and the phone went dead.

    I had trouble getting up. 
    I dropped my phone when I did it, the insides crescendoing across the
    pine floor.  I’d saved for six months to
    buy it, the newest Apple wonder, and I stood and looked at it spilled to
    oblivion, and a wide chasm opened inside me, dark as night.

    He had no way to call me now, not that he would for at least
    a day.  I imagined him with
    Ashley/Tiffany.  I could see him nodding
    as she told her sad story.  He wasn’t
    listening, but she wouldn’t know that. 
    She’d drop into his strong arms and feel safe.  He’d tell her he couldn’t be tied down and
    she’d think, He doesn’t know how persuasive I can be.  He’d tip her chin up and look in her eyes and
    she’d think the world was turning slow, just so she could stay in that moment.

    The bell on the dryer sounded, a sharp twang that made me
    jump.  It sounded like a phone, but wasn’t.  But then nothing was what it was supposed to
    be.

     

     

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      That’s definitely a random way to start a conversation. But seriously, this was brilliant, Marla. I like how neither of them answer each other’s questions.

    • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate

      I want to smack him. Great writing Marla – I like how you have so little dialogue and then the main character thinks the rest.

    • Plumjoppa

      Great Dialogue!  So much is revealed in the short responses, and the fact that he calls her while he’s with another woman. 

    • http://twitter.com/alishajoyk Alisha Joy Knight

       So sad.  The dialogue was completely believable.  What a jerk, acting like he was doing a good thing by calling her… not even bothering to walk out of the room first.  I loved that last paragraph where she hears the bell and thinks it’s the phone.  I hope she leaves him.

    • Emily Brown

      I agree with Plumjoppa the short responses are really nice, somehow makes the space between the two characters seem greater.

    • wendy2020

      Marla strikes again.  The dialogue is so meaty within a few choice words.  I thought you did really amazing.

      One question… how does she know that he picked Ashley/Tiffany up the day before and not just minutes ago?  I do love the question, “Where’d she sleep last night”, but felt like maybe he needed to say something beforehand to reference when T/A started coming along for the ride.

      Aww, man when she dropped her phone.  That stinks.  And I love how you call it the latest Apple Wonder.

      The dryer sounding like a phone, but it wasn’t… loved that, too.

      And the inner conversation she had about how the exchange between him and T/A would go.  And how he just says, I gotta go after she says I love you…

      Great writing, Marla.

    • Mirelba

       Hi Marla!

      How sad!  But great as usual.  Wendy has a good point with her question.  I was also bothered by this ““The reason we work is that you don’t
      ask me questions like that.”  It took me more than one reading to figure out what he/you meant by that line.  Could be I’m too innocent, or I was going through a “duh” moment, but I would work on that line…

  • Steve Mathisen

    I like all that you have to say except the cussing part. I do not talk that way (perhaps I am not real?). My friends don’t talk that way and most of the people that I come into contact with do not. I did spend nine years in the Navy and heard a lot of it but mostly from young, drunk sailors. People that don’t have a good command of the language are (in my experience of 60+ years of life) the most likely offenders. So, your statement that “real people” do that is somewhat insulting to the larger portion of our population that does not but is still very much real.

    • PJ Reece

      We’re talking about fiction, Steve. Stories of other people, not you. If you don’t think that people curse, you must be living in a bubble of some kind. My mother is 98 and even she, in her own sweet way, curses from time to time, such as when she struggles to rise from her chair, and in frustration lets loose with a cute little verbal volt that actually makes me happy to see that she’s got some fight left in her, poor old soul.

      • Steve Mathisen

        We write fiction that reflects us. The point he was trying to make were that real people do that. My point is that people not doing that does not make them any less real or vital as people. I maintain that a poor command of that language is responsible for most of it. I find the bubble part of your comment to be demeaning. Other peoples experiences in life are just as valid and just as real if they do not contain the use of foul, despicable language. That is just a crutch for not being able to express yourself. If your attitude and response is typical of the people here, then perhaps I should not be here.

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          Come on. We’re better than this.

          To refocus on dialogue, I think you make an excellent point. Personally, I don’t cuss and I’m still a real person. I’m sorry if it came across that I’m denying my own real-ness and vitality (and yours to boot). Not my intention, but I can definitely see your point. 
          If you’re writing a story about people that don’t cuss, by all means, don’t cuss. However, if you’re writing a story about a rebellious teenager or drunken sailors, you might be doing your story a disservice, at least if you’re trying to be realistic, by leaving out the profanity. 

          Not everyone is into realism. Thousands of fantasy books are published every year. This is fiction, so ir-realism is allowed. Do what’s right for your story.

          • Steve Mathisen

            It’s also possible to include the illusion of someone cussing without actually including the words. I write plenty of real dialogue without it. Lots of real stories (not just fantasy) are quite complete without it. As I said earlier, our writing reflects us. Even our characters reflect us in some small way. If using that language reflects you, then put it in your book! That is real. If not using it reflects you, then don’t. That is also real. Stories can be just as real, hard and gritty without it as they can with it. We are the writers. We get to choose where our stories fly.

          • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

            That’s a thought provoking point, Steve. I still disagree with you, but I’m definitely challenged. Thanks for spurring us on.

          • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

            You’re a good man, Joe!

        • Mirelba

           Actually, I agree with you.  There are plenty of real people who do not cuss, and plenty of communities where cussing is not prevalent.  I have read plenty of excellent books without cussing in them, that were still very believable.  And yet, I would cut some slack for people who do use it.

           I think that we each are driven to write our own truths, and that is a reflection of where we grew up, our upbringing our own moral beliefs, etc.  And sometimes we want to explore other truths, and unfortunately (or not–peace, people), there are plenty of people out there who do use foul language.  I would assume that if you wanted to write a dialogue between members of a street gang, the language could not be pristine and still be believable. 

          People on this blog come from all over the world, represent different age groups, communities and religious or other beliefs and by sharing our thoughts on writing, can help us all grow.  And of course, while advice is given, we are still free to decide which points we agree with and which we don’t. 

          I, personally,  hope you come back to share more with us.

    • http://fivedayfiction.blogspot.com/ Robert

      Bullshit!

  • http://twitter.com/wendywallace Wendy Wallace

    Double post! Sorry!

  • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate

    NB – for some reason my name keeps changing at the top of my posts and replies – sometimes I appear as Kate, sometimes as kittykattykaty (which is my email) and sometimes as Kate Hewson, but basically I’m the same person. Seems to change depending what computer I am on and how I have logged in. Sorry.

    Lydia sat forlornly by the window of her cell, looking out
    through the bars at the trees and fields that surrounded the castle walls. She
    wondered how long she would be kept here. She wondered if her mother and
    sisters were missing her yet; if they had even noticed that she hadn’t returned
    home.

    But suddenly, the key turned in the lock, the door opened
    and in walked Jack. Lydia’s heart leapt.

    “JACK!” she almost laughed with relief, “How did you get
    into the castle? How did you get in here? Did anyone see you? I’m so pleased to
    see you!”

    She ran across the room and flung herself at him.

    Jack stood stiffly, without returning her hug, and pushed
    her gently back.

    Lydia’s face fell. “What’s wrong?”

    “Lydia I need to tell you something…” he couldn’t meet her
    eye. He took a breath to say something, but stopped and bit his lip. Lydia felt
    that she would quite like to bite his lip too, but now wasn’t the time.

    “Jack, we need to go!” she said, “We need to get out before
    somebody comes! Did you bring your horse?” She ran back to get her shawl from
    the bench. “It was freezing outside earlier, I didn’t have time to get anything
    warmer-“

    “Lydia, just stop!” Jack raised his hand, and this time
    looked right at her. “I haven’t come to rescue you.”

    Lydia looked at him, confusion etched across her face. “What
    do you mean?”

    Jack took a deep breath, brushed his fingers through his
    hair, put his hands in his pockets and took them out again. “I’m not who you
    think I am.”

    This didn’t make any sense. “Well…who the hell are you then?”

    “I’m…kind of…well, I live here.” Jack said.

    Lydia’s brow furrowed. “What, in this cell?”

    Jack gave a small laugh. “No, you looney! In the castle.”

    Lydia’s mind was racing. “Are you…one of the servants?”

    “No.” jack said quietly.

    Lydia shook her head. “I don’t get it. What are you trying
    to tell me?”

    Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I’mPrinceJacob”

    “Sorry, who? You’re what?”

    Jack opened his eyes again. “The Prince. Prince Jacob. You
    know… Son of the King, heir to the throne..”

    “The PRINCE prince?” asked Lydia in disbelief.

    “The prince prince.”

    She didn’t know whether to slap him or hug him.

    • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate

      Ha – just realised where I got that lip biting bit from. Please ignore.

    • wendy2020

      Compelling storyline.  Don’t you hate it when cutting and pasting messes up your formatting?

      One thought I had while reading this was to have a few more dialogue lines flow one after the other without exposition in between, or shorter exposition.

      ****

      Lydia’s face fell. “What’s wrong?”

      “Lydia I need to tell you something…” Jack said, not meeting her eye.

      “Jack, we need to go!  Get out of here before somebody comes! Did you bring your horse?”

      She ran back to get her shawl from the bench. “It was freezing outside earlier, I didn’t have time to get anything warmer-”

      Jack grabbed her by the arm.

      “Lydia, just stop!  I haven’t come to rescue you.”

      “What do you mean?”

      “Jack took a deep breath. “I’m not who you think I am.”

      “Well…who the hell are you then?”

      Jack brushed his fingers through his hair, dipped them into his pocket, then pulled them out again. 

      “I’m…kind of…well, I live here.”

      ****

      Anyway, just my thoughts, and you know what thougths are worth, but thought it might help keep the tension if you knocked out some of the description, cause the scene is really good.

      • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate

        OOh, thanks Wendy, great suggestions!!! this is a tiny snippet of my big WIP, so many thanks for that!! x

  • Steve Mathisen

    Here is a very short story I wrote some time ago using just dialogue. It can be found at : http://www.short-story-time.com/the-baby.html. It was written just for laughs. 

    The Baby

    “Well, Mrs. Johnson, how do you like your new baby boy. Isn’t he a handsome little fellow?”“Well…he sure is, but…but…there seems to be…”“He comes with all the latest features: a full head of blonde hair, corn flower blue eyes, guaranteed to be six feet tall, accelerated toilet training capabilities, full maturity in 6 years. Look, he’s growing already!”“But, Doctor Hornsby, there seems to be…”“He is fully functional immediately. Listen to that voice! You know, Mrs. Johnson, I’ll bet he’ll be a great singer someday –if he wants to be. We have included the superior intellect package at no extra cost.”“But, Doctor Hornsby, there seems to be…”“This model will also have excellent coordination and will be able to play all sports at the highest levels by the time he is in his early teens. Look, he’s grown nearly six inches already!”“But, Doctor Hornsby, there seems to be…”“What is wrong Mrs. Johnson? You sound like you’re not fully satisfied.”“Oh no, Doctor Hornsby, it’s just that his head in on backwards.”“Oh…so it is…well, no problem. We’ll just return him to the factory for some…(ahem)…adjustments.”“But, Doctor Hornsby, that’s just not possible!”“Why not Mrs. Johnson, it shouldn’t take too long to fix.”“But, Doctor Hornsby, we opted for the natural birth method. He just won’t fit!” 

    • Steve Mathisen

      Hmm…all the carriage returns were stripped out.

  • http://learnasyouwrite.com/ Shaquanda Dalton

    Love dialogue. My creative writing teacher gave me an assignment to eavesdrop on some else’s conversation and write down every word extanged.

    I noticed that people unknowingly repeat themselves. Maybe to emphasis a point or maybe because they think the other person didn’t hear them. People also say “What” a lot.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Good ones, Shaquanda. 

  • Gerry Wilson

    Joe, 
    This is such great advice about dialogue. I’d love to either re-blog it or at least post a link to it on my blog, Gerry Wilson: The Writerly Life at http://gerrygwilson.com. On Mondays I feature a “Monday Discovery” where I link to blogs or specific entries I’ve found interesting and/or helpful. I would give full credit to you in either case. If that isn’t all right with you, please let me know. 

  • http://twitter.com/alishajoyk Alisha Joy Knight

    Dialogue has always been the hardest aspect of writing for me… especially writing a man’s voice.  I often find myself laughing hysterically when I read back what I wrote… a man and a woman bickering ends up sounding like two school girls.  So frustrating!  It takes piles of rewrites to work it out.  So I thought I’d take another stab at it here and not over think it for once. 

    Here is my practice:

    “Did you do it?” Lisa asks.

    Josh’s back is turned to her, arched, neck strained as he works
    to wrestle a suitcase down from the top of the closet. 

    Lisa rolls her eyes. 
    “Just get a chair.”

    Josh gives the bag a hard yank.  “Shit!” 
    He ducks, holding the suitcase shield-like to protect himself from the
    resulting avalanche: old clothes, winter sweaters, boxes of photograph, his
    stash of porn.  

    Lisa picks a DVD off the floor, “real classy,” she says,
    waving the graphic cover in his face. “What if the boys found this?” 

    Josh ignores her, carries the bag to the bed. 

    Shaking her head, Lisa begins to gather up the porn,
    returning it to a back corner of the closet. 
    “You didn’t answer me,” she says, carefully re-burrying his stash under
    a wad of holiday sweaters.

    “Just thrown them away,” Josh said, “I forgot they were even
    up there.”

    “I don’t care about your stupid college porn
    collection.  I was talking about Knox…
    did you tell him?”

    “Kind of.”

    “What do you mean kind of?”

    Josh shrugs.

    “You said you were going to do it before you left.  Seriously, Josh!  I would have done it months ago.”

    “I’m sure he already knows.”

    “Then you don’t know your son.  He definitely doesn’t know, but he will as
    soon as school starts and I want us to be the ones to tell him.  It’s important!”

    Josh shoves a handful of shirts into the bag, not bothering
    to fold them. “Fine, I’ll tell him now.”

    Lisa laughs, “Ya! 
    Good idea!” she says sarcastically, “give him ‘the talk’ when he’s got
    his whole lacrosse team out in the yard!”

    “What do you want me to do?” he asks, shoving socks and
    underwear on top of the jumble of shirts.  
    “I have to leave in twenty minutes.”

    “I want you to go back in time and tell your son where
    babies come from!” she shouts.

    Josh sighs. He turns, looks at her, his dark eyes crinkling
    into a grin.  Lisa braces herself,
    holding tight to her anger.  “You know
    I’m no good at this kind of thing.”

    “Then why did you tell me you wanted to do it?” she snaps.

    “Baby,” he says, speaking to her chest, “no ten year old boy
    wants to hear his mom talk about ejaculations and wet dreams.  Especially when his mom is hot.”

    “Your sick.”

    He sits on the bed, “come here.”

    “No.  I’m mad at you,”
    she says. 

    Josh stands and crosses the room, wraps his arms around her,
    “I could always do what my dad did and just toss him a video,” he teases, words
    and breath vibrating in her ear. 

    She shrugs his mouth away. 
    “You better not,” she warns, and turns her head, rests her cheek on his
    chest, “you promised me you’d do it.” 
    She listens to his heart, closes her eyes and nestles in closer. 

    “I will.  As soon as I
    get home,” he promises, leaning down to kiss her cheek.

    “No.  I’ll do it.”

    “Baby, I’ll be home Thursday.  Can’t our boy stay innocent for a few more
    days?”

    “School starts Monday. 
    All the mom’s agreed we’d tell the boys over the summer.  I don’t want to give them another reason to
    hate me.”

    “The only reason they don’t like you…”

    “Don’t say it.”

    “It’s true!”

    “They’re nice to Tonya, and she’s hot.”

    “Which ones Tonya?”

    Lisa smiles, “Like you don’t know!”  She can smell him—cologne, sweat, fabric
    softening—she misses him already.

    “I tried to tell him, but the kid never sits still and I
    didn’t think you would want me to yell it as he ran by: hey dude… the penis
    goes in the vagina, wear condoms!”

    Lisa giggles and tries to work out a strategy… Josh had a
    point, getting Knox to sit still was almost impossible.   

    “I can call as soon as I land.”

    “No, you have to do it face to face,” she says,
    distracted. 

    “Then I’ll skype him.” 

    Lisa tries to picture it—Knox huddled in front of the
    computer, held captive by headphones, his dad’s face huge on the screen.  “Now THAT would traumatize him.”

    Josh kisses her neck. 
    “Have him call me if he has any questions.”  He pats her affectionately on the butt and
    heads to the closet for pants. 

    She leans against the closet door, “I’m going to miss you.”

    “Did you wash my black jeans?”

    “Ya, there in the drier.” 

    A bang on the bedroom door “Mom!  Can I go to Kyle’s?”

    “Come say goodbye to your dad first.”

    The door opens and a wiry nine-year-old bursts into the
    room, blond hair stained brown with sweat, face red from running, skin still
    showing the marks where his helmet had pressed into his forehead.  “Bye dad!”

    “Take care of Mom while I’m gone.”

    “K,” Knox says, a blur of energy.  He whirls around.

    “And help out with your brothers.”

    “K.  Bye Dad.”  He’s already running.  “Kyle wait up, my mom said yes.” 

    “I’m proud of you,” Josh calls after him.

    “Proud of you too,” Knox calls back.  The door slams.    

    Lisa heads to the laundry room, her mind a jumble of charts
    and diagrams. 
     

  • http://twitter.com/alishajoyk Alisha Joy Knight

    Warning… practice contains mild adult content. 

    “Did you do it?” Lisa asks.

    Josh’s back is turned to her, arched, neck strained as he works
    to wrestle a suitcase down from the top of the closet. 

    Lisa rolls her eyes. 
    “Just get a chair.”

    Josh gives the bag a hard yank.  “Shit!” 
    He ducks, holding the suitcase shield-like to protect himself from the
    resulting avalanche: old clothes, winter sweaters, boxes of photograph, his
    stash of porn.  

    Lisa picks a DVD off the floor, “real classy,” she says,
    waving the graphic cover in his face. “What if the boys found this?” 

    Josh ignores her, carries the bag to the bed. 

    Shaking her head, Lisa begins to gather up the porn,
    returning it to a back corner of the closet. 
    “You didn’t answer me,” she says over her shoulder as she strategically arranges holiday sweaters over the pile of smut.  

    “Just thrown them away,” Josh said, “I forgot they were even
    up there.”

    “I don’t care about your stupid college porn
    collection.  I was talking about Knox…
    did you tell him?”

    “Kind of.”

    “What do you mean kind of?”

    Josh shrugs.

    “You said you were going to do it before you left.  Seriously, Josh!  I would have done it months ago.”

    “I’m sure he already knows.”

    “Then you don’t know your son.  He definitely doesn’t know, but he will as soon as school starts and I want us to be the ones to tell him.  It’s important!”

    Josh shoves a handful of shirts into the bag, not bothering
    to fold them. “Fine, I’ll tell him now.”

    Lisa laughs, “Ya! 
    Good idea!” she says sarcastically, “give him ‘the talk’ when he’s got
    his whole lacrosse team out in the yard!”

    “What do you want me to do?” he asks, shoving socks and
    underwear on top of the jumble of shirts.  
    “I have to leave in twenty minutes.”

    “I want you to go back in time and tell your son where
    babies come from!” she shouts.

    Josh sighs. He turns, looks at her, his dark eyes crinkling
    into a grin.  Lisa braces herself,
    holding tight to her anger.  “You know
    I’m no good at this kind of thing.”

    “Then why did you tell me you wanted to do it?” she snaps.

    “Baby,” he says, speaking to her chest, “no ten year old boy
    wants to hear his mom talk about ejaculations and wet dreams.  Especially when his mom is hot.”

    “Your sick.”

    He sits on the bed, “come here.”

    “No.  I’m mad at you,”
    she says. 

    Josh stands and crosses the room, wraps his arms around her,
    “I could always do what my dad did and just toss him a video,” he teases, words
    and breath vibrating in her ear. 

    She shrugs his mouth away. 
    “You better not,” she warns, and turns her head, rests her cheek on his
    chest, “you promised me you’d do it.” 
    She listens to his heart, closes her eyes and nestles in closer. 

    “I will.  As soon as I
    get home,” he promises, leaning down to kiss her cheek.

    “No.  I’ll do it.”

    “Baby, I’ll be home Thursday.  Can’t our boy stay innocent for a few more
    days?”

    “School starts Monday. 
    All the mom’s agreed we’d tell the boys over the summer.  I don’t want to give them another reason to
    hate me.”

    “The only reason they don’t like you…”

    “Don’t say it.”

    “It’s true!”

    “They’re nice to Tonya, and she’s hot.”

    “Which ones Tonya?”

    Lisa smiles, “Like you don’t know!”  She can smell him—cologne, sweat, fabric
    softening—she misses him already.

    “I tried to tell him, but the kid never sits still and I
    didn’t think you would want me to yell it as he ran by: hey dude… the penis
    goes in the vagina, wear condoms!”

    Lisa giggles and tries to work out a strategy… Josh had a
    point, getting Knox to sit still was almost impossible.   

    “I can call as soon as I land.”

    “No, you have to do it face to face,” she says,
    distracted. 

    “Then I’ll skype him.” 

    Lisa tries to picture it—Knox huddled in front of the
    computer, held captive by headphones, his dad’s face huge on the screen.  “Now THAT would traumatize him.”

    Josh kisses her neck. 
    “Have him call me if he has any questions.”  He pats her affectionately on the butt and
    heads to the closet for pants. 

    She leans against the closet door, “I’m going to miss you.”

    “Did you wash my black jeans?”

    “Ya, there in the drier.” 

    A bang on the bedroom door “Mom!  Can I go to Kyle’s?”

    “Come say goodbye to your dad first.”

    The door opens and a wiry nine-year-old bursts into the
    room, blond hair stained brown with sweat, face red from running, skin still
    showing the marks where his helmet had pressed into his forehead.  “Bye dad!”

    “Take care of Mom while I’m gone.”

    “K,” Knox says, a blur of energy.  He whirls around.

    “And help out with your brothers.”

    “K.  Bye Dad.”  He’s already running.  “Kyle wait up, my mom said yes.” 

    “I’m proud of you,” Josh calls after him.

    “Proud of you too,” Knox calls back.  The door slams.    

    Lisa heads to the laundry room, her mind a jumble of charts
    and diagrams. 
     

    • wendy2020

      I thought the way the characters was pretty true to life.  Not much to point to and say “that part was kind of stilted.”

      Loved the exchange of Tonya.

      So, it’s mom’s job after all, huh?  Nice how disagreed without having an all out fight.  I like the dynamic of this couple you created.

  • Karetha Miller

    Just a piece of something to practice my dialogue skills:

    “Who’re you?” The unshaven face peering through the screen door gave no hint of recognition. I stood uncertainly on the stoop, hoping I was at the right house.

    “I’m your niece Cecelia. I called earlier to tell you I’d be stopping by.”

    “Humph!” The face retreated momentarily and the screen door swing open on squeaky hinges. I stepped inside in response to the unspoken invitation.

    “Whatcha want, anyway? ”

    “I was hoping you could tell me more about my father, your brother Neil. I want desperately to find out more about his boyhood. He died last year and I’ve felt an empty void in my heart ever since. Can I ask you a few questions?”

    “S’pose so.” He shuffled around the room, shifting stacks of magazines and newspapers until the edge of a ragged couch appeared. He motioned, “Sit there.”

    I perched stiffly on the edge of the sofa. I hoped no bugs or mice would make an unexpected appearance. I was nervous enough as it was…without random creature encounters. “How long before his death did you and my father last speak?”

    “Ten years, I reckon.”

    “Really? Why so long?”

    “Nothin’ to say to each other, I s’pose.” My uncle shifted from one foot to the other.

    “Did you argue?”

    “Nope, not as I recollect.”

    “I didn’t see you at the funeral.” I felt like this conversation was going nowhere.

    “I ain’t much on funerals. Too much wailin’ and tears.”

    “I see.” Unfortunately, I didn’t see at all. How could my uncle have neglected to appear at my father’s funeral? My father was his only sibling! I didn’t know my uncle that well, but I thought surely he would have wanted to say goodbye. Apparently I was wrong.

    • http://www.noralestermurad.com/ Nora Lester Murad in Palestine

       I like this Karetha. I think you can unpack some of the dialogue a bit, though. For example: “I was hoping you could tell me more about my father, your brother Neil.
      I want desperately to find out more about his boyhood. He died last
      year and I’ve felt an empty void in my heart ever since. Can I ask you a
      few questions?” — doesn’t sound too realistic to me. Perhaps:

      “I just have some questions.”

      “Questions? About what.”

      “My dad. I miss him.”

      “So what’s that gotta do with me?”

      “Well there’s so much I don’t know about him, about his childhood.”

      “I don’t think I can help you much there.”

      “I think you can.”

      Or something like that?

      • Karetha Miller

         Nora, thanks for the suggestions.  Like Wendy, you’ve showed me some good ways to make it seem more like someone would actually talk.  I appreciate it :-)

    • wendy2020

      This was very interesting.  I thought the uncle (maybe you could name him? just noticed he doesn’t have one) spoke with a natural clipped tone.

      Cecilia was great, too.  But I think sometimes her dialog read like she was really talking to tell the reader what was going on.

      “I was hoping you could tell me more about my father, your brother Neil. I want desperately to find out more about his boyhood. He died last year and I’ve felt an empty void in my heart ever since. Can I ask you a few questions?”

      Might be pared down to just, “I was hoping you could tell me more about my father.  Your brother, Neil.  Can I ask you a few questions.”

      You reveal that her dad died when you reference the funeral, and I think the reader might be pulled in more if he/she discovers that fact as the story progresses.  Have them wonder up front, “hmmm, why doesn’t she know her dad?  why can’t she just ask her dad her questions?”

      With that in mind, I might change “How long before his death did you and my father last speak?” to “When did you last speak to my dad?”

      Tough conversation to have, when only one person really wants to engage.

      I thought you did a really job of putting dialect into the uncle without it being irritating.  It was very natural, and I thought read smoothly

      Good Exercise.

      • Karetha Miller

         Wendy…I like the suggestions regarding Cecelia’s dialog.  Your approach makes it seem more realistic.  Thanks!

  • Emily Brown

    not sure about this one, might not focus enough on the dialogue. But the idea is practice so here you are.

    “Hey!” the voice echoed around the lobby and I prayed that when I looked around it wouldn’t be her. “Hey! there you are!” All other guests had paused for a moment to watch Sal, a large round woman wearing a rainforest decorated kaftan, flailing her arms and shouting in my direction. She had spotted me. There was eye contact. 

    “Oh, hi. it’s good to see you.” I say, quickly scanning the lobby for a familiar face, lost child or uncontrollable fire.  Sal grabs a hold of me and hugs me close. 

    “Oh, my god I am so glad I have found yo..” her chunky baubled necklace digs into my chest. “.. I was petrified and had to come and tell…” When she releases me and I can breath the wave of perfume hits me. She smells like she lives inside a wild rose. I sneeze involuntarily. “Bless you darling!”

    “Thank you.” I notice a waiter and grab his attention “gin and tonic please.”

    “Oh nothing for me darling” Sal pats the waiter on the arm and laughs “too early for me dear, I will be positively sloshed if I do that!” she sits down and continues “well it was just awful. I could have sworn..” Her lips are beet red. I watch as they open and close, her dark blue eyes are laced with the wrinkles of a woman who smiles – perpetually. “…but when I got there, it was gone..” Her hair is black and curled. It rises in towers above her head “…the officers said that I..” when she moves her arms the fat sags and swings with her“.. I just don’t know what to do, no one will listen to me..”

    “I’m sorry to hear that Sal.”

    • http://twitter.com/alishajoyk Alisha Joy Knight

       This was great… I laughed out loud numerous times.  Love that he isn’t listening to her story… and how you showed that in your writing.  I thought that was very clever.  Also loved that line about looking around for a failure face, a child, a fire.  great stuff.

    • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

      This is hilarious Emily! 

      I have to agree with Alisha, the fading in and out of dialog was really great and helped to develop both characters: your narrator as wanting to avoid this woman, and the Sal as someone who really just wants to talk, whether she’s being listened to or not. Great stuff!

      I too loved the line about the familiar face, lost child, or uncontrollable fire. It made me laugh out loud. 

      Keep up the good work :)

    • wendy2020

      Could really get his disinterest in her tale.

      Could not help thinking the protagonist should end with something like, “Well, I don’t know what to say”. Did like the truthfulness of how sorry he is to hear whatever she is spilling into his ear.

      I’d ditch the “it’s” and just say, “Good to see you.”. Think it sounds a bit more natural.

      You have a great sense of humor.

      • Emily Brown

        good point about the “it’s”. I think I always say it in my head but never out loud when I say “good to see you.”

    • http://www.noralestermurad.com/ Nora Lester Murad in Palestine

       I agree that the paragraph that shows non-listening is creative, but the reader has to follow it even if the listening character isn’t. Perhaps if it were formatted in the traditional way, with each new quote on a new line? I think it might work better.

      • Emily Brown

        Yeah. I struggled with the formatting. I wanted to get across the seamlessness, like Sal was talking in the background of main characters thoughts. But it may make it clearer to space it out. thanks.

    • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

      That’s a great twist on dialogue Emily. It’s as if they aren’t really talking to each other in a conversation at all. The description and responses are great. Love the humor!

  • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

    I find that when writing dialog, especially for contained scenes, it helps to just get out of the characters’ way and let them talk. Don’t put any restraints on them grammatically or thematically. If you’ve ever acted before, writing dialog is similar to improve. Never tell them no. It’s your job to go with the flow and guide it, without constraining it, to something plausible and powerful.

    Whether I managed any of that successfully is up for debate, but here’s my practice for today:

    Adam hung his coat on the coat rack and rolled his shoulders back while stretching his neck first to one side and then the other. He fished his keys out of his pocket and set them on the counter.

    “What did the doctor say?” May asked from the kitchen. 

    He chewed his lip, happy that she couldn’t see him, or how sick he felt. What to say? What made sense? 

    “Adam?” May poked her head into the living room. “What did the doctor say?”

    “Fit as a fiddle,” he said. Who talks like that? His palms were sweaty.

    May stepped fully into the living room, her eyebrows a concerned steeple, “Are you alright? You look pale.”

    “Yeah, I, um…” In the kitchen a pot bubbled over and May disappeared into the kitchen before he could finish.

    “Just a second!” She said. 

    It was happening. The words were crawling up from his gut and about to spill out. About to bubble over.

    “I’m pregnant.”

    From the kitchen he could hear May settling the burner and securing the pot’s lid. She returned to the kitchen, still concerned. “What was that, babe?” 

    “Baby…”

    “Yeah?”

    “No, I mean…um…” His stomach lurched. Or was it his stomach at all? “We’re going to have a baby.”

    May cocked an eyebrow at him. “What?”

    “I’m pregnant.”

    She looked at him a minute. Then broke into a smile,”Oh come off it. I always pull out!” She laughed.

    “This isn’t a joke, May…” He smirked despite himself.

    “That’s why you’re smirking,” She crossed her arms in front of her chest.

    “I’m serious! The doctor did an ultrasound…there’s a baby in…my womb.” It all seemed so ridiculous when he said it out loud. 

    “Oh yeah, your womb. Of course. We should have known when your last period didn’t show up.” May was getting bewildered now. She could see how sick he felt. How worried he was.

    “You’re right. I’m joking. You got me.” Adam ran his hands up his face and back through his hair.

    “You’re…serious.” He could hear her stomach sink in her voice.

    “Yeah…I can’t explain it. The doctor couldn’t explain it, but…we’re going to have a baby.” He wanted her to tell him it would be okay, but there was no hope for that. This was abysmal. Bizarre. It was more than either of them could handle.

    May looked down at her hands and then returned to the kitchen without a word. Adam almost ran to the couch, letting it catch him in his darkening tunnel of a world. Deep breaths. It was real. Oh God, this was actually happening.

    • http://twitter.com/alishajoyk Alisha Joy Knight

       Well, that was a surprise!  Poor Adam!  May’s initial reaction was hilarious…  I can’t even imagine how I would react if given that sort of news!  Sheesh!

    • Karetha Miller

       Did not see the pregnancy twist coming!  Good one :-)

    • wendy2020

      Great image:  her eyebrows a concerned steeple.

      Is it abysmal because HE is having the baby?  I couldn’t help wondering if there was some back story about how neither of them wanted kids?

      I might cut the following lines:  May was getting bewildered now. She could see how sick he felt. How worried he was.

      Cause it follows May still ribbing him and he jokes back.  I loved that right when he decides to play it off as a joke is when she says “You’re serious.”

      There a few bits of dialogue that if were trimmed of a word or syllable, might sound more conversational to me?

      “Just a sec.”  for “Just a second”

      “You all right?” for “Are you all right?”

      and here:  She looked at him a minute… I’d change minute to moment.  Cause there is no way I could look at my husband for a whole minute without saying something after my husband told me he was pregnant.

      Very original story line!  Good exercise.

      • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

        Haha “there is no way I could look at my husband for a whole minute…” you’re so right. That’s a good point. And yes, it is abysmal because HE is having the baby. 

        Thanks so much for taking the time to critique, Wendy :)

    • Nora Lester Murad

       I like the story and the dialogue, though I agree with the previous critiques about cutting some out. I like when May disappeared back into the kitchen. Nice story!

  • wendy2020

    (This post contains profanity)

    Knock. Knock.
     
    No response.
     
    “Jim?”
     
    “I’m in the bathroom for Chrissake!”
     
    Laura pushed open the door to the master bedroom they no longer shared.  Jim’s laptop was perched atop a pile of pillows on what had formerly been her side of the bed, before she’d starting sleeping in the guest room. The screen displayed a website advertising a $250 bottle of scotch for $199.99.
     
    “Jim?” Laura said through the bathroom door.
     
    “Laura, really?  Really?!  We have to talk now?”
     
    “It’s just…” Sigh.  Start again. “I’m heading to the grocery store.  You want me to pick you up anything?”
     
    No response.
     
    “Jim, I’m…”
     
    “God, Laura.  Just give me a chance to think.”
     
    Pause.  No answer.
     
    “Okay, well if you think of anything, just text me.  I gotta run.  Or I won’t be back in time to pick up the kids from…”
     
    “Beano.”
     
    “What?”
     
    “Beano.  I need Beano.”
     
    “Beano?”
     
    “Yes, dammit.  Why do you bother me while I’m in here and then not listen?  You always do this.”
     
    “No.  I heard you.  I just wanted to make sure I got…”
     
    “And toilet paper.  The right kind this time.”
     
    Laura frowned, wondering when it was she had stopped knowing how to do anything right.
     
    “Charmain?”
     
    “Charmain?  God, no.  You know the kind I like.”
     
    How Laura wished she still knew what Jim liked. 
     
    “What brand is it, again?”
     
    “Laura, how would I know the brand?  You’re the one who does the grocery shopping.  Not me.”
     
    “You wanna come with me?  To the store? Get out for a little bit?”
     
    “Yeah, sounds awesome, Laura.”
     
    Laura heard a flush.
     
    “You’re a f***ing jerk, you lazy ass drunk,” Laura said, knowing that Jim would not be able to hear her over the sound of his load of crap going down the toilet.
     
    She heard him turn on the sink.  At least he still washed his hands.
     
    Jim came out from the master bathroom.  He hadn’t bothered to run the fan, and it was obvious.  He sat down on his rumpled side of the bed, pulling his laptop toward him.
     
    “You’re gonna be late getting kids, you know.  It’s all about time management, Laura.”
     
    Jim took a swig from his coffee mug that was not filled with coffee.
     
    Laura left without saying good-bye.  She left without saying a lot of things she wanted to say. 
     
    If she’d learned anything from the Al-A-Non meeting she was heading to it was that there was no point arguing with a bottle.

    • http://twitter.com/alishajoyk Alisha Joy Knight

       Great line: “Laura left without saying good-bye.  She left without saying a lot of things she wanted to say.”

      Great dialogue.. told a lot about this couple. Saying what she wants to say when the toilets flushing and he can’t hear her was a nice touch. 

    • http://www.noralestermurad.cm/ Nora Lester Murad in Palestine

       This sounds very realistic to me, except she’s not even out of the house and she’s so compassionate. LOVE the dialogue, especially the opening.

    • http://fivedayfiction.blogspot.com/ Robert

      Awesome dialogue Wendy … I want to read more … 

    • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate

      Really good dialogue. Lots ‘said’ in the pauses and the words unspoken! 

  • http://www.youngaspiringwriter.blogspot.com/ Chihuahua Zero

    Great post! I’m bookmarking it, since this is quite the dialogue treasure trove.

    Alas, I don’t have a practice. I started one, but it wasn’t dialogue. Maybe if I can get into the writing mindset, I’ll do one and post it here.

  • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

    When she walked in, she smiled like nothing was wrong.

    “Why didn’t you call me back?” I asked.

    “Oh, sorry. Forgot.”

    “Forgot? I left you a hundred messages!”

    “Whatever. What’s got your panties in a wad this time?” She asked.

    “Never mind. So what are you gonna have?” I thumbed through the humongous menu.

    “I’m not really hungry. Can we split something?”

    I sighed.

    “Okay, forget it. I’ll just have a salad. So why are you in such a bad mood?”

    “Really?” I asked.

    “No, but obviously you’re pissed about something.”

    “Not that you really care, but I just got fired.”

    “Welcome to Cheesecake Factory, my name is Jorge. Have you folks dined with us before?”

    “FIRED? What the hell did you do this time?” she asked.

    “I’ll come back in a little while to get your drink order,” Jorge said and quickly disappeared.

    “Can you keep your voice down, please?” I said. “If you must know, I got caught writing my novel on company time.”

    “Novel? What novel?”

    “Are you kidding me? I’ve been working on a novel for the past three years.” I said.

    “Well, I guess you’ll have plenty of time writing your novel now!” 

    “You know I’m gonna get another job. I’ve got a second interview with Google later this week.” I said, assuringly.

    “That’s not what I’m talking about. I meant you’ll have plenty of time to write your great American novel because you’ll be single.”

    • wendy2020

      This was a great plot line dialogue.  Especially within the constraints of a restaurant where there is a struggle to act socially appropriate vs. sayind and doing what is on your mind.

      I found a lot of it true to the way people speak, but I think you could add a snap to some of it.

      Like, instead of: 
      “Are you kidding me? I’ve been working on a novel for the past three years.” I said.

      I might edit the second sentence to read as an annoyed “Uh-Duh”… like “Are you kidding me?  The novel I’ve been working on for the past three years!”

      And I’d kind of like her walk in a little more arrogantly… Maybe:

      She walked in with a smile and not a hint of an apology.

      Not sure I followed what was going on here, but I am functioning on an insomniac amount of sleep so maybe I just missed something?

      “Okay, forget it. I’ll just have a salad. So why are you in such a bad mood?”
      “Really?” I asked.
      “No, but obviously you’re pissed about something.”

      Interesting break-up twist in the end.  Get the sense that even if he hadn’t lost his job, they’d be better off with separate checks. ;)

    • Nora Lester Murad

       I like this, though I’m not sure too many people really say, “If you must know…” It’s very hard to comment when we don’t know the characters! I really like the interruption from the waiter.

  • Margarett Meyers

    Very valuable info!  I have found that many people also talk a lot with their hands.  I would like to say that I really appreciate the information you put out there.  Good job,  Keep it up!

  • wendy2020

    This was a great post, Joe.  You gave us to lot to thinking about when putting words into other people’s mouths.

    One question:  What’s your take on “words” like gotta, gonna, shoulda, sorta, gotcha being included in dialogue.  I generally don’t use them in my narrative writing, but sometimes slide them in between quotation marks when I think they sound more like a character’s speech pattern.   Interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

    Not sure where this falls into the mix, but I think real people a lot more informally than I sometimes see written.

    For example:

    “I have looked everywhere and I cannot find my other sneaker.  Would you please help me look for it, mom?”

    As opposed to “Mom!  I can’t find my sneaker.  Help me!”

    It seems like people shy away from contractions sometimes in writing dialogue, and I’m not sure why?  Do you find this, too?

    This blog has been a great outlet for me.  Thank you for consistently challenging us to improve.

    • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

      Good question Wendy. I sometimes wonder what’s acceptable in writing my character’s idiosyncratic way of speaking. Is it okay to spell a word creatively to describe how that person says it? I don’t like sloppy grammar but what if that’s how someone speaks. 

  • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

    Sure Gerry. Thanks :)

  • http://www.noralestermurad.com/ Nora Lester Murad in Palestine

    Here’s my practice. I have a tendency to burden the dialogue with too much explanation. I hope I didn’t do that, but let me know what you think I can improve.

    ***

    Adela’s wobbly legs carried her to kitchen but she couldn’t get
    past the doorway. She clutched the frame and stood blinking at her husband, his
    sin exposed by the bright fluorescent light.

     

    “What just happened?” The whisper that eked out betrayed her
    smallness.

    He didn’t even bother to answer her.

     

    “I said, what did you do?” Maysoon’s sobs bled through the walls and filled the space between them.

     

    “What?” He popped some crackers into his mouth, choked and
    coughed the crumbs onto the counter. “None of your business.”

     

    His voice was foul as the mix of spit and hair that clogged
    the bathroom drain. Adela vomited.

     

    “Disgusting.” He moved towards the door, expecting her to
    move to let him pass, but she didn’t.

     

    “It is my business!” The sudden fury in her eyes pinned him
    to the wall, her voice held a gun to his temple.

     

    “You and your daughter are both prostitutes.” He laughed.

     

    The room turned red and green as an instinctual rage
    enveloped Adela. She leapt for the meat knife, but she slipped in her vomit and
    hit her head on the table.

     

    “Don’t start acting like you care all of a sudden. Don’t
    start acting like you have a right to care,” he hissed. He stepped over her and
    left the house barely shaken as Adela sat in her own filth, the kitchen knife
    within reach.
     

    • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate

      Oh my goodness, what a scene! There’s a lot going on in there outside of the dialogue, and that’s really good – I liked “He didn’t even bother to answer her” – that says a lot.

      • Nora Lester Murad

         Thanks, Kate. I’m glad that came through. It’s hard to write dialogue about things that people so don’t want to talk about.

  • Simon K

    This is without doubt the best article I’ve read on dialogue – very, very useful and insightful and I will definitely be putting to practice much of your advice. Well done.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Wow. Thanks Simon!

  • Frank Cody

    “I don’t want to leave a bad taste”
    “I get it…” she answered.
    “Hey, did you guys ever talk about how it is going to be between the two of you when she leaves?” she on the next line.
    “Nope.”
    “Did she ask you to move with her?”
    “Nope”
    “U ok?”
    “What do you mean?
    “I’m just asking if you’re ok with me asking all these questions.”
    “Of coz, u got the right” I typed back.
    “Well, not really” after giving it a bit of a thought.
    “What exactly that bothers you right now?” her words taunted back.
    “I wish I know.”
    “It’s all jumbled up right now” I added on the next line while trying to think through what exactly were those things.
    “Must be…” she replied, “I know how you feel.”

  • Mirelba

    The phone rang, breaking the oppressive
    silence.  It took several rings before Phyllis
    managed to hobble over to the phone. 

    “Hi, Mom, how’re you doing?”  Her daughter.

    Phyllis paused. 
    “Fine.”

    “Mom, that ‘fine’ doesn’t sound too
    good.  What’s hurting today?”

    She laughed softly.  “How did you know?”

    “Mom, I hear it in your voice.  Is it your leg again?  Your back?”

    “The leg, honey.  But it’s ok.”

    “What’s ok? How bad is it?  Give it to me from one to ten.”

    “I guess today it’s a seven.”

    “A seven!”

    “That’s not so bad, yesterday it was a nine.”

    “What does the doctor have to say?”

    “There isn’t that much to do.  He can give me another shot in a few
    days.”

    “But how are you managing, Mom?”

    “I’m managing, I’m managing.  Everything gets done; it just takes a little
    longer.”

    Her daughter was unnaturally silent for a few
    moments.  “Mom, don’t you think it’s
    time you moved in with one of us?”

    “Why, will it stop hurting if I’m by
    you?”

    “Mom, I worry about you alone in the house-
    all those stairs, those empty rooms!  You
    took such good care of us over the years; I want to be able to take care of you
    now that you need us.”

    “I’m okay, really.  I’m managing. 
    I don’t need to be taken care of.”

    “I know, I know.  You don’t need anything.  But Mom, maybe we need something. Maybe we
    need to spoil you a little.”

    “Oh, Margo, really.  You’re wonderful children.  You and the grandchildren and their children-
    you bring me all the joy in the world. 
    That’s all the spoiling I need.”

    She could hear her daughter’s sigh over the
    wire, over the thousands of miles separating them.

    “Mom, I love you.”

    “I love you too, honey.  Stop worrying about me, I’m fine.  And go to sleep already, it’s late by
    you.”

    Margo laughed.  
    “Don’t worry, Mommy.  I’ll go
    to bed. G’night.  Love you.”

            

    • http://www.facebook.com/zoe.dyer Zoe Beech

      This has got a great flow to it.   “You took such good care of us over the years; I want to be able to take care of you now that you need us.” – that sentence to me needs tweaking, a bit too formal. But I especially enjoyed the initial interrogation of the daughter, it has such a true ring to it.  Funny, I just read mine after yours, and it’s like the same issue but completely different responses! (Based on my grandpa, bless him!)

      • Mirelba

        This one’s based on my mom, bless her as well! I’m having internet problems now, have to get in and read yours now…

      • Mirelba

        Okay, seem to have a few minutes of internet connection.  Thanks for pointing it out.  Although that’s probably really close to the actual conversation, you’re right, it doesn’t read well and deserves a good tweak.  Thanks again!

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    This is a bit of dialogue from my work in progress. It’s between 18 year old best friends.
    ***
    Tentatively I crossed the
    street, a knot of dread filling my stomach. As I pushed open the
    front gate the hinges squeaked betraying my approach. Cole quickly
    brushed the tears from her face and turned round to see who was
    breaking in upon her silent anguish. She dropped her eyes back to the
    ground and I hesitated before I joined her under the tree. A gray,
    gnawing feeling in the pit of my heart made me uneasy. I reached her
    and put my hand on her shoulder guiding her to the white bench in the
    side yard.

    I leaned forward as we
    sat, “Tell me, what’s wrong,” I coaxed. She composed herself and
    looked me square in the face, though I could see the pain and fear
    etched in her brow.

    “Harry’s asked me to
    marry him.”

    “Harry?” I couldn’t
    believe it. I was full of questions all wanting to tumble out at
    once. I knew she liked him and had been seeing him once in a while
    but I hadn’t taken it so seriously.

    “When are you getting
    married, do your parents know, when did he ask you, you’ve barely
    known him three months,” I blurted the questions out as a painful
    string. She looked stung. She was wilting before me like a flower in
    the full sun of an August day. I rested my hand on hers and lowered
    my tone. “Is there something I don’t know?”

    She nodded, “We’re
    already married,” she said dully. I wanted to catch my breath. I
    felt like I’d been slapped.

    “You’re married,” I
    echoed stupidly. A wave of nausea swept over me, there was a ringing
    in my ears. Then it hit me. I stammered, “Are you…are you,
    pregnant?”

    The air hung heavy with
    the word. Time stood still. A yellow jacket buzzed annoyingly near my
    ear in slow motion. I could hear my own heart beat. Her anguished,
    pleading eyes locked onto mine. Then it all came tumbling out in a
    torrential flood from her fragile heart into my own. I squeezed her
    hand tightly as she spoke of loneliness and doubt. The attention
    Harry had given her was overwhelming, it was more than she had ever
    expected from a handsome man. He made her promises, she felt loved
    and wanted. She was afraid to tell me when she suspected she was
    pregnant. She found out alone last week. The dream was ruined and she
    woke up to find it had burst like a bubble.

    “When I told Harry,”
    she almost whispered, “he made arrangements for a Justice of the
    Peace wedding in Charlotte right away, we were married on Friday.”
    This was Wednesday. I wanted to scream, how could you not have told
    me!

    “He came over to tell
    my parents but I couldn’t face them, not yet,” her voice quivered.
    I swallowed back the hurt, anger, betrayal I was feeling and patted
    her hand.

    “I could help you tell
    them,” I offered.

    Her eyes swam with
    tears, “Would you?”

    “Of course, but you
    know you need to get this over with, the longer you wait the harder
    it will be.” She nodded.

    I steadied myself
    against the rage I felt for that no good Harry Singer. If he’d been
    standing in front of me at that moment I would have wanted to kill
    him. But right now I had more important considerations. My sweet
    friend needed me and I wouldn’t let her down. Like she let you down,
    the nagging thought echoed in the back of my mind. I brushed the
    thought away like a puff of smoke. I hugged Cole and we cried
    together for a moment.

    “I wish you would have
    told me,” I got up the courage to say.

    “I wanted to, I tried
    to, I was just too ashamed and scared.” 

    “Did you think I
    wouldn’t want to be there for you? That I wouldn’t want to know?” I
    asked. I knew it didn’t matter what the answer was, she hadn’t told
    me. Trust was strained taut between us.

    “I don’t know,” her
    voice was heavy. “Harry said we shouldn’t tell anyone until we were
    married, I wanted to tell you but, I just didn’t, know how,” she
    trailed off. There wasn’t much to say, a coldness crept over me in
    spite of the hot morning sun beating down on us. I sighed. I hugged
    her tight, took her hand and led her inside.

    • http://fivedayfiction.blogspot.com/ Robert

      Beck … I love this I just feel it needs a bit of an edit … I know you said work in progress … and trust me I’m no expert – the opening line caught my attention immediately … I would change it to: 

      “Crossing the street a knot of dread filled my belly.  I could see Cole crying and had to know why.  The noisy gate betrayed my approach.”  …. 

      Anyway, no big deal and my version is probably all wrong for your style … I just thought I would try … I hope you’re not offended … 

      Makes me wonder about the back story in this … 

      • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

        I’m certainly not offended Robert. I wouldn’t put it out there if I didn’t want a critique that would make my pieces better. I like your suggestions, especially the first sentence. I did cut it out of a larger scene so that may have made a difference. To find out more about the back story you’ll have to stay tuned and get the book when it comes out! :) 

  • http://lauraplusthevoices.blogspot.com/ Laura W.

    Most of these are great, but having known my dad I will have to disagree with #3 and #5. Some people love nothing more than long monologues and repeating themselves. There are all sorts of “real people” out there and yes, there are some windbags too. :) If I may, I’d like to add another rule: “Real people sometimes love nothing more than the sound of their own voice.” Talkiness is a character trait. A character who does this to hilarious effect is Mr. Collins in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’

    • http://www.pjreece.ca/blog/wordpress/category.blog Pjreece

      Laura… great comment.  It’s critical and constructive and personal and insightful and informative. And I think I even agree with you.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Great point, Laura. Would we consider Mr. Collins a “real” person, though. :)

    • Mirelba

       I agree that there are many windbags out there.  Nonetheless, the fact that there are many windbags doesn’t mean that in
      writing we have to faithfully put down every word.  They are usually an
      annoyance to read through.  I think that we can often convey their wordiness without putting every word in. 

      I recently read a book that was nice enough,
      but there were 2 long monologues in the book that bothered me so much, that I hesitated to recommend the book.  I felt those monologues could
      have (or maybe should have) been handled better. 

      As to Jane Austen- Yes Mr. Collins loved the sound of his own voice, but Austen knew when to cut even Collins.  And how many of us are Jane Austen?  

    • Alexandra

      I so agree! For the most part 3 & 5 are a good rule to have but Laura you are so right about the fact that some people just love to hear themselves talk. I know a guy who can have a full five minute conversation with himself with me helping him a long by adding maybe a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ every minute or two. Children tend to do this too- where they have to stop to breathe because they are so excited about what they are saying and half of it doesn’t even make sense.

    • Hopeless Desires

      Hmm…I’d say that usually talkative people save the talk with people they’re really close with or when very excited.

      But perhaps some people out there are talkative with everyone? For example, there are these gossipy popular girls in some of these movies who talk till the day ends and it’s usually about ‘That boy~’ or ‘These cute shoes!’, but then again these are movies.

      Also, some people are only talkative in certain moods, such as in fear, anxiety, or excitement, or certain subjects, such as sports or a holiday that they really enjoyed.

      Or maybe when they’re uneasy with the stifling silence at the table?

      Your point is solid and there are many talkative people out there, but perhaps not with everybody. Especially when they’re conversing with a killer and they know that they’re talking to a killer. Kind of eases the talkative trait and replaces it with beads of sweat and whimpers of fear.

  • Yvette Carol

    I tend to be tuned to the auditory in general. Maybe it’s because of this predilection, but when I write dialogue, I ‘hear’ it in my mind, and then write what I hear, sort of like taking dictation. Sometimes I wish I knew shorthand because it can be hard to keep up with the conversation! However, then the editing process boils it down further, as PJ said. I think good dialogue has an effortless quality to it, so you almost speed up when reading it.

  • Juliana Austen

    At 11.00am the staff of the Grantham Public
    Library sat in their staff room for the “Change Management” meeting with the
    Libraries Manager and his Human Resources Consultant.

    A Powerpoint slides flashed up on the
    screen and words rolled over Margaret. “Going forward… meeting the changing
    needs of customers…. Customer centric…. Challenging environment …… hard times
    ….. At the end of the day…

    She seaked a glance at Anna who rolled her
    eyes. They had a small bet on the number of times “change ready” was used.

    “Margaret your vision for Grantham? “The
    witch had a perpetual smile, and a sharp tongue.

    “Well … ummm vision that’s a big word,
    visionary….

    “This is a well established community, you
    will see in your Change Ready packs the breakdown of ages, and incomes in the
    Grantham suburb. It has changed remarkably over the years. The question is has
    the Library changed with it? Are you meeting the needs of your customer? Are
    you growing the business?” The witch always wore black hence her nickname but
    her lipstick was bright red – it never seemed to smudge.

    “Storytimes are busier than ever”. Sarah
    offered

    ““That is your only growth area.” The witch
    said

    “The quality of the storyteller! Sarah, I
    think that you would pull an audience, as they say, anywhere.” Mr Harrison
    smiled at the Children’s librarian, Sarah looked down demurely.

    “Thank you.” She said.

    Margaret stared not for the first time she
    wondered if there was something going on there.

    “How do our figures compare with others?”

    “Good point Anna. They don’t come out too
    well I’m afraid. Newmarket and Waterside are both doing very well despite being
    much smaller in size. What do you think they have that you don’t? the witch
    asked

    “Well they ….. Newmarket has a school right
    next door and Waterside has a school and the retirement village. Looking at
    these statistics the biggest library users are children and retirees.”

    Margaret sunk a little further into her
    chair.

    The witch beamed at Sarah. “You have it! It
    is all about position. Grantham may well have been the hub of this area 30
    years ago but now the times and the suburb has moved on”.  

    “If only we could magic carpet the building
    and all you fine people to a better position.”

    “What are you suggesting?”

    “The building is on a very prime site.”

    “What would the library gain from selling
    it off?”

    “The reality is Margaret that we would have
    enough to build two new libraries with all the latest technology in areas that
    are crying out for library services.”

    Maraget closed her eyes here it comes she
    thought.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zoe.dyer Zoe Beech

    This was a great list, Joe. But I didn’t agree with number 10 because I think often action can be intentional and loud – especially in passive aggression – and used to speak for people, as I’ve done here.

    ‘Dad,’ she started.

    ‘No,’ he said, and downed his cold tea.

    ‘But don’t you think-‘

    ‘No.’  

    ‘What if this happens again?’

    The old man squinted his eyes at the television screen which was off.
    He pushed himself slowly off the chair.

    ‘Where’s the damn remote!’  

    She didn’t answer.

    He shuffled around the room, his hands grasping out at every surface.

    ‘Where the bloody hell did they put it?’  

    The woman sighed. ‘On top of the TV.’

    ‘Of course I’ve bloody well checked there.  These people just throw things around, watch that damn MTV all day with the boom boom music in my ears and then don’t have the decency to put the remote back in it’s bloody place.  I just wish you’d all leave me alone.’

    She walked towards the television, and saw the remote immediately. ‘Here you go.’

    He switched the TV on and classical music blasted through the two-story house.  

    ‘Bloody hell!’ He shouted as his finger pressed the volume down.  ‘I’m sick of all of you lot.  Go for a walk or something, Lara.’

    She picked up his teacup and saucer and put one hand on his shoulder before walking into his kitchen.

    ‘Lord Jesus,’ she said softly as she smelt the sour milk spilt over the counter.

    • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate

      Good dialogue! I think I might change “The woman” to “His daughter” seeing as that’s who she is. For a moment I thought there was another person in the room. And then maybe I would take off the ‘Of course’ and leave it as ‘I’ve bloody well checked there!’ – unless she had said ‘Have you checked on top of the tv?’ – see?
      I may be wrong of course. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/zoe.dyer Zoe Beech

        Thanks a lot Kate – you’re spot on!  I’m so often eager to post that I don’t proof read enough times… :/ Ooh, I’m so excited for this editing thing – keen to read some more of your work!  

    • Mirelba

      Tried several times to post this, my internet connection is
      going crazy.  Slipped in during a “connection working” moment to
      read yours, but can’t seem to post this, cause the connection is down
      again.  Will try till I get it through…

      Once I got a chance to get in and read yours, I saw what you mean.  I
      think you did a great job, but giving you the courtesy in return of
      constructive critique :-) 

      First of all, I agree with your comment about Joe’s number 10.  Just
      yesterday I read somewhere how rather than use verbs other than said or adverbs
      to add understanding of a conversation, one should use action.  I think
      you did a great job of it here. 

      There were however two things which stopped my reading for a moment:  the
      first one was the dad’s use of “these people.”  At first, I
      assumed that he was in the house with his daughter, so who are these
      people?  Tenants she has in the house?  If they’re her kids, then
      wouldn’t he say something more in the line of “those kids of yours”
      or “kids nowadays”?  It left me confused.   At the end,
      however you say she walked into HIS kitchen, so I guess he’s not by her, so I
      was left confused again.  Of course, this may  be explained within the story that came before this excerpt?

      Nice job!

      • http://www.facebook.com/zoe.dyer Zoe Beech

        Thanks Mirelba, stoked for the critique!  Ja, reading your and Kate’s comments made me realise I didn’t explain enough… The ‘these people’ were his children and relatives who had come to help him get around in his house who he’d starting resenting – so I needed her to pick that line up in dialogue, definitely! 

         Gosh, is it Israel that has bad connections, or is it just bad today?  In SA, we used to have electric shortouts a whole lot… Fun and games!!

        • Mirelba

          You’re welcome! No electricity problems, haven’t had them for years and years here. We’ve been having internet connectivity problems on and off since we upgraded to a faster connection, but yesterday it was off for hours, very annoying. Also no phone when the connection is down. TG for mobile phones! Today seems to be fine.

  • Puffy

    (This is just a conversation in my Percy Jackson fanfiction. I am eleven and I have the right to write these things :D)

    “Nice weather,” I started.
    Marina glared at me. “Don’t talk about weather when I’m in a plane.”

    “Look, I get that Zeus doesn’t like you very much. But Ari and Trixy are here too. You think he’d like to blast his own daughters out of the sky, too?”

    She sighed and continued looking out the window, sweating nervously.

    I turned to Ari. “SO, how are you?”

    “The last time I’ve been in a plane, I fell out and got separated from my twin sister for seven years. I’m very fine, thank you very much,” Ari responded sarcastically.

    “I just wanted a conversation!” I yelled.

    “Don’t look at me for conversation then! Geez!”

    “For Kronos’ sake, why the heck are you picking a fight!”

    “I’m not picking a fight!” she screamed, “You started all this and I just responded!”

    I shook my head and turned up the volume of the song. It was a dumb opera symphony, but I didn’t care. “Stupid Ari,” I mumbled.

    “OH SO NOW I’M STUPID, THEN,” Ari exploded, reaching for her pocket, “I’m stupid? WELL, if I’m pretty stupid, I guess I can’t handle a fight with y–”

    “NO!”

    Trixy snatched the knife from her sister and scowled. “Mariana, would you PLEASE control your temper? If they find out you have a knife with you…”

    “Well, mortals can’t see our weapons anyway,” Marina suddenly said.

    “Whatever. Now, I’d like to still be alive after this trip,” Trixy sighed in an annoying big-sisterly tone, “So you girls just shut up and don’t start any arguments. I’m listening to Maroon 5 here.”

    “I’m more of a Forever the Sickest Kids person,” Marina grinned.

    Ari sneered. I thought she was about to start an argument again, but instead she said, “You guys. Your bands eat the dust of One Direction.”

    I smiled. We were behaving like friends again.

    “No way,” I laughed, “Taylor Swift is much better than all of them.”

    • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate

      I like how they are arguing and then find something to laugh about! Good writing. I haven’t read ‘Percy Jackson’ so I can’t relate to the characters, but I enjoy writing fanfiction too.
      You might want to read this through again – there are a couple of sentences where you repeat a word, for example “Look, I get that Zeus doesn’t like you very much. But Ari and Trixy are here too. You think he’d like to blast his own daughters out of the sky, too” – too many ‘too’s! I do this all the time, and sometimes it takes someone else to point it out.
      Great writing though – I am trying to convince my 11 year old daughter to join in with this community.

  • Mirelba

    Actually, now that I’m transcribing an interview I did (boy, could I use Hugh’s tool now!) I can tell you that “real dialogue” would never work!  We need the dialog to sound real, but not necessarily be real.  We need it to draw the reader and make it easy for him to read and follow.  Real people can repeat a thought in three or four different ways, and all within the space of a few seconds.  If you tried to do that in writing, your readers would be “ho-humming” and dumping your book/story.  So we need it to sound realistic, and yet flow.

    I guess dialog requires not only a good ear, but a good eye as well.

    • Juliana Austen

      Well put!

  • Alexandra

     Me too. I like to get a reaction. I think that the explanation between the dialogue helps to convey the whole picture. The silence tells us more about your character, and with your explanation, we don’t miss it.

  • soulstops

    Interesting tips…I was thinking about how tunnel thinkers vs. verbal processors dialogue differently…those of us, who are verbal processors, are more apt to put our foot in our mouth…unintentionally, of course :) Thanks, Joe.

  • Abby Earle

    I’m going to *make* this apply to elves and centaurs if it kills me.