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Writing again about writing dialogue

Here are a few dialogue writing pointers I picked up from “How to Grow a Novel” by Sol Stein.

The tips work for dialogues in short stories as well as novels, and perhaps they are more important in short stories because the author has to say much in a short space.

The aim of dialogue is to create emotional effect in the reader.

One of the things a writer has to learn by conscious application is to discard coherence and logic that is usually meant for non-fiction. Dialogue seems artificial when it is coherent and logical.

When writing dialogue, always remember that a character who reveals not enough reveals much.

Always check for conflict in dialogue.

Check whether the lines spoken are consistent with the character’s background.

Weed out any unnecessary words.

Loosen stiff sentences.

Check to see what is going on in between the lines: what counts in dialogue is not what is said but what is meant.

To me, the words I have bolded out, are really the most important pieces of advice. Drop in any additional tips in the comments and I’ll add it to this list and credit it to you.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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3 Comments

  • Arijit says:

    nice name for blog. best.

  • Uninvoked says:

    Don't forget that a lot of rules for standard writing don't apply to to dialog. A great example is that excessive adverbs are looked down on when used in description. If you try to weed these out of dialog however, it ends up sounding stilted and flat.

  • darcknyt says:

    I don't have anything to add to these great tips. Thanks, Damyanti!

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