Newsletter signup

Tips for increasing your Dialogue Power

Diana here:

Record (on paper) bits of conversations you overhear–eavesdropping allowed in public places

Notice the way children talk and the way parents respond. There’s not a lot of detail, they want to get the point across fast before the kids take off physically or mentally.

Listen to movies and television shows—write down what the characters say

Pick a movie or show you’re familiar with so you don’t get lost in the story. 

Write one character’s dialogue for the first scene, the go back and write down what the second character says. Skip to the middle and do the same, then to the end and repeat the action.

What did you pick up? Are they using the same speech patterns all the way through? If it’s a romance, probably not. Once there is the possible break up the speech will become more abrupt with shorter sentences or powerful words, by the end the speech will soften and linger.

What’s missing in dialogue?

When you talk with your friends do you bounce from one topic to another, then circle back to where you started? Most of us do, but writing that in a scene will leave a reader confused and looking for an exit. Stay on topic or switch to a different scene.

When you and your friends get together do you sometimes talk over each other? Of course, because you anticipate what the other is going to say. That doesn’t work in dialogue—I’m not sure how you would even write it.

In everyday life there will be um, er, hm breaks. You don’t want to do that with a dialogue in a speech. Well—maybe one per book, any more than that and the reader gets bored, looks away, maybe even closes the book. You the writer don’t need those little "let me think before I speak moments" because you know the conversation and you write it.

Example real life:
“Um, maybe he’s cheating on her.”
Fix it: “I think he’s cheating on her.”

Which of those gets your attention faster?
The second one for sure. Can’t you see the other character leaning in to find out what the other knows?

Writing dialogue is fun! 


  1. I previously had a strange conversation with a freelance editor who said that he just jammed in "ums and ers" into his dialogue to fix it. It astounded me how assured he was that that would improve a person's work, and when I asked about subtext, he kept saying, "I think we're working with different tiers of authors."

    I love hearing how different people feel about the "realism" required in dialogue. Good post!

    1. Fascinating that would be the reply and not the best way to edit someones work.