Monday, September 5, 2011

Write Great Dialogue: Part Two

I was out of town this Friday and did not have the chance to post this on Friday. My father-in-law passed away and I traveled to Pittsburgh, PA for his funeral.

Last Monday I wrote the first half of how to write great dialogue. Today we'll talk about the importance of conflict or tension in fiction, something I'm still learning how to do.

Great dialogue leaves the dull parts of conversation out, so that the protagonist is dealing with the change, threat, or challenges. Imagine reading this conversation:

 "How is that new toaster working for you?" Babs asked.
"Oh, it's marvelous," Mary said. "I'm really glad I got this one. It's at Target, on sale."
"Really? I may just have to get one for myself."
"Do. You'll love it. You'll absolutely love it."
Babs took a sip of her coffee. "Mm, this is good. What blend?"
"French Roast."
"I adore French Roast."
"Me too."

In reading this, you would think neither one has a care in the world, and wouldn't believe that Mary's husband is in the hospital.

This conversation seems more realistic:

"How is that new toaster working for you?" Babs asked.
"The toaster. How's it working?"
"It toasts."
"Yes. It toasts."
"I didn't mean to-"
"What do you think it does?"
Babs took a sip of her coffee. They sat in silence for a long moment.

This shows a distracted Mary not paying attention when Babs asks about a toaster. Their conversation takes an awkward turn which leaves them in silence.

Writing dialogue like this is taking me a long time to learn. What are your tips for writing dialogue?

*This post was taken from the book, "Revision & Self-Editing" by James Scott Bell.


  1. I enjoyed reading the first example of dialogue about the toaster, lol. I'll have to check out this book soon, thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Anthony - the first example was silly! They both came from the Revision and Self-Editing book.