- NY Book Editors: Your Guide to Writing Better Dialogue
- The NY Book Editors Blog has loads of articles covering a wide range of topics. This one about dialogue gives fully discusses 12 tips for making dialogue serve its purpose for the story and sound natural.
- Masterclass: How to Write Great Dialogue
- This article covers similar areas to the NY Book Editors page, but it is always good to have the key points reiterated in a different way. The Masterclass page also includes some writing prompts and a list by Margert Atwood of examples of great dialogue.
- Movie Maintenance: A Little Dialogue About Dialogue
- The Movie Maintenance podcast is primarily about films, but this episode covers aspects of dialogue which are relevant for all forms.
- Writing Excuses has produced several episodes on the topic. They often focus on genre fiction, but their discussions on dialogue are relevant to any style.
- The Brandon Sanderson Lectures are an excellent series of full-length lectures delivered by Brandon Sanderson. The following is specifically focussed on dialogue, though it is covered in other lectures as well (they’re all well-worth a watch).
- Write Great Dialogue, Irving Weinman
- I got this book as part of a 3-book Teach Yourself collection about writing. Although in some places the book comes across a tad mechanical in its approach to dialogue, there are loads of useful exercises throughout. ‘In this practical guide for aspiring writers of all levels, Irving Weinman, himself a published writer and well-known creative writing tutor, uses case studies to help you explore how to write good dialogue, and gives you a range of fun and challenging exercises that will help you to write great dialogue.’
Prompts and activities
- Transcribe a conversation (either that you’ve recorded (with permission) or overheard). Notice how much/little of the conversation contains information as is filler (like erms, or excessive politeness). Rewrite the conversation by removing the filler and retaining the valuable parts. It’s also interesting to note if any one person holds more power in the conversation. This isn’t always the person who is speaking the most, but the person who is directing the conversation.
- Write a conversation in which the power dynamic switches part way through. For example maybe one character thinks they have blackmail over the other, but then realises that it isn’t true.
- A said-bookism is a word that a writer uses in place of ‘said’. For example: shouted, questioned, continued, etc… There is nothing wrong with using these words occasionally, but an over-reliance on them can be distracting to the reader. Try writing a scene in which you don’t use any said-bookisms. Instead the reader should be able to infer how the dialogue was spoken by what was said and the context in which it was said.
- Write a scene involving 3 or more characters, but don’t use any dialogue tags (eg Bob said) part from for the first time a character speaks. It should be clear who is speaking from the character’s voice.
- Dialogue is not a stand-alone aspect of creative writing: It is intrinsically linked to character and plot. Try writing multiple scenes using dialogue that achieve the same plot goal but showcase character in a different way. For example, how would a schoolteacher negotiate their way out of a hostage situation compared to a trained police officer or a musical theatre actor?
- Find a video or audio-recording online of someone talking. Now write dialogue for a character the talks in a similar way. Don’t transcribe the audio, rather try to emulate their speaking style in the dialogue you write.
- (From the Lit Circle) Pick some famous lines of dialogue and use them to inspire a scene
- (From the Lit Circle) You and a friend create a character each and then take it turns writing lines of dialogue between the two. After 5 minutes switch characters, making sure to continue using the same voice the character was using before.
- (From the Lit Circle) Write about an overheard conversation that is misunderstood. Misunderstandings in overheard conversations often come about because of lack of context or the absence of body-language cues.