Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Writing Dialogue

I'm trying to keep up with my 2010 blog goals and am already falling behind! I had a fabulous post about writing dialogue all planned out in my mind. But when I sat down to write it...well, sometimes writing is like decorating a cake or drawing a picture--it doesn't always turn out the way you imagined it. But here goes anyway!

Sometimes reading dialogue can be annoying. There might be too much talking and not enough action going on. Or there may be a string of untagged comments that make my head spin trying to keep up with who's saying what. So here are a couple of guidelines I like to follow when writing dialogue (so as not to annoy my readers):

1. Use tags sparingly. You don't need a "he said" or "she said" after every line of dialogue.

2. When using tags, "said" is fine for most dialogue. You won't get extra points for creativity and word choice if you do this:

Ted looked out the window. "It's raining," he sighed.
"Really?" whined Bob. "I wanted to go swimming."
"Me too," replied Ted.
"Me three," grumbled Jane.

It's better to show your characters' emotions through their words and actions rather than throwing a creative tag in there.

"That stinks!" said Bob. "Now we can't go swimming."

You see? "Said" works just fine. Of course, sometimes "he sighed" or "she grumbled" is the right thing. Just don't overdo it!

3. Break up sections of dialogue with some action. Your reader doesn't just want to know what your character is saying, but to have a picture of your character as he is speaking.

Ted pulled the curtain back and peered outside. "It's starting to rain," he sighed.
Bob leaned his head against the glass. "That stinks. Now we can't go swimming."
"It's okay," said Jane. "Maybe Mom will let us play in the rain."
The two boys grinned at each other and bolted from the room. "Hey Mom!"

"I hope my little dialogue guidelines are helpful to you in your writing endeavors," said Rebecca.


  1. Well said, Becky.

  2. What's funny about your mention of tags is that I remember in high school being encouraged to use different words than said.

  3. Thanks, Angie!

    Chris, I know what you mean. I work at an elementary school. In the fourth grade classes the word "said" is on the wall as one of the words they're not supposed to use. So silly! Drives me crazy!


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