Monday, June 26, 2006

Talk Ten

Ten Things About Writing Dialogue

1. Learn from a master by reading and trying the exercises from Holly Lisle's Dialogue Workshop.

2. 1ConfusedWriter's blog post, Eight Things I've Learned About Writing Dialogue.

3. If you're interested in dialogue software, the demo for Great Dialogue makes it look like a fairly helpful tutorial-style program (would be nicer if there was a free lite version or a demo download, but the program isn't all that expensive.)

4. Romance Writing Tips Group offers the article "Let’s Talk About Dialogue," He Pontificated.

5. Looking for something wise someone else said for your character to quote? Try Feath MacKirin's Quote Generator.

6. Robert J. Sawyer gabs on gabbing in his article Speaking of Dialogue.

7. One of my friends uses Tinderbox to arrange his scenes and dialogue; the home site offers a free demo download.

8. Writer Trick #4 from my old weblog discusses how to use dialogue as well as action to convey emotion versus -ly adverb tags.

9. Author Peder Hill makes some good points at his Writing Effective Dialogue page.

10. Another interesting article with two excellent examples of as-you-know-Bobisms, Writing Good Dialogue by Greg Garrett.


  1. If you want to learn great dialog, watch the great witty movies of the 30's and 40's, check out the plays of guys like Neil Simon, watch the movies of Quentin Tarantino, and keep your ears open to the people around you.

    When you're writing, make sure that the dialog is an EXCHANGE, not a series of monologues -- and don't allow your characters to be "on the nose." Force the reader to find the meaning of their words BETWEEN the lines.

  2. Thank you for the links! I'm going to have a look-see.

    Also, as everyone knows (but it's worth repeating anyway) -- it's a good idea to read your dialogue out loud. It really helps to catch those awkward sentences and this-reads-okay-but-sounds-really-weird phrases.

  3. recording and transcribing dialogue is a great way to learn the rhythms and the differences in people's speech patterns too.

    Of course it's kinda boring unless you get paid to do it.

  4. oh yeah, Rob GB, great idea! We just watched The Man Who Came To Dinner last night.

    If only the Jimmy Durante part had been played by Harpo Marx (who played it on stage) it would have been sweet. But I guess Harpo didn't do speaking parts in movies.

  5. Anonymous11:08 AM


    Right on with your movie recommendations. I love the Thin Man movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy. The chemistry and banter between Nick and Nora is awesome.

  6. Anonymous11:53 AM


    Yours: "Cherijo." Squilyp had never sounded more relieved. "Thank the gods."

    Mine: "Cherijo," Squilyp said relievedly. "Thank the gods."

    See? I cut out three words. And you know what Strunk and White says about cutting out words.

    Bwahahahahahaaa . . .

  7. Well, about that "said relievedly" sentence -- for some reason, the word 'relievedly' sounds a bit odd to me. If I had to change it, it would turn into "said with relief." :)

  8. "Now I get it" she sighed.

  9. Anonymous8:55 PM

    Squilyp sounded relieved.

    That Tinderbox software is a godsend!! I've been doing cause & effect charts with little scraps of paper, complaining that surely there's a piece of software that'll do this better and more easily. And there it is.

    I downloaded the demo and maxed it out, so now I'm waiting for my payment to clear so I can get the registration code and get back to work. Thank you!

  10. Anonymous1:26 AM

    Oy. Must I add smileys to make the joke clear?

    Mine: "Cherijo," Squilyp said relievedly. "Thank the gods." ;)

    My tongue was firmly in cheek with 'relievedly'. Left butt cheek.

  11. Mr. Hoffman, I misunderstood the seriousness of what you were saying. Even if I did, I was actually quite pleasant in my own post. If you wanted to clarify the point, I would've thought that a simple heads-up would suffice.

    I may not have been able to determine if you were joking, but the exasperation and snarky sarcasm with which you wrote your previous post came through loud and clear.


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