So you can read my books

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Dialogue is one of the first things a literary agent will check 

when evaluating the marketability of 
your book.

The reason is simple really.
Dialogue instantly reveals your skill as a writer.
 The best words are actions, of course. But that doesn't mean your significant other doesn't want to hear the words:

"I love you."


Good dialogue illuminates the personalities of your characters,

 moves the plot forward, and develops relationships.


I.) Good dialogue is essential in our novels if we want to succeed.

A.) What is good, "draw in the reader" dialogue?


B.) It is not actual speech.

1.) we pause.

2.) we drift

3.) we stray or become confused and stammer.

C.) It is not the State of the Union Address either.

1.) No blunt instrument of prose

2.) No chunky, thick paragraphs.

D.) It is a reflection of real speech:

1.) It is the distillation of actual speech

2.) Think of it as a pruned bonzai tree of real conversation.

II.) We interrupt each other

1.) People break into the words of the other or plain talk over one another in a "listen to me now" barrage of words.

2.) No taking polite turns in real life.

3.) So aim to have the other person respond to the other character after every line.

4.) It won't always be possible, but you should never let a person talk for more than 3 lines.

5.) Why?

6.) Never tire the eye of the reader (especially the already tired eye of the agent!)

III.) Good dialogue reveals the character of the person talking

A.) Surface message reveals

B.) The intent of the speaker.

IV.) Good dialogue reveals the inner heart and mind of the speaker while moving the story forward at the same time.

V.) Good dialogue gets to the gut level of the character speaking, 

defining her experience of what is going on around her and her reactions to it.

A.) Having your character's every other line questioned or reacted to by another ...

1.) creates a deeper, more dramatic story.

2.) creates more complex, more "real" characters.

3.) drawing the reader into believing the reality of your fictive world.


B.) You don't have to get this exact in your draft.

1.) Leonard da Vinci sketched the bold outline of his complete image in bold sweeps at first.

2.) He later refined and added depth after the whole composition was sketched on his canvas.

3.) That is what you do with your prose canvas.

4.) Trying to get your dialogue spot-on in the draft will only end up blocking you up.

VI.) Good dialogue requires rewriting.

A.) Rewriting in dialogue is cutting.

B.) Think of it as going on a word diet.

1.) Cut out every word you can do without as you would calories.

2.) Cut out going back for dessert :

3.) No seconds for your favorite words and phrases. One to a conversation.

C.) Read aloud your dialogue

1.) Listen to the rhythm of the interplay between the characters.

2.) Each character should have their own distinct rhythm of talking.

3.) Each character should have their own distinct way of expressing themselves.

a.) their favorite words and phrases should be different than the others in the conversation.

b.) their differing mindsets, educational background, their prejudices, their passions should mold their words into being distinctive to themselves.

VII.) Doing all that will make your conversations in your novel seem real,

 drawing the reader into becoming immersed into your story, perhaps even having them feel that the moment is actually happening.

What did George Bernard Shaw say of an irritating actress at a party? 

"The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech."

This tune gave birth to my novella, whose dialogue I worked hard on -  




  1. Thanks for the wise words about dialogue, Roland. I'm proud of the fact that I've received quite a few compliments -- including from agents and and others -- that I write very good dialogue. I think that's because at an early age I learned to really listen to people.

    1. Ernest Hemingway often complained that most people never listened ... not even those who wished to be writers. Thanks for liking my post. :-)

  2. Hi Roland - so many could learn from these words - I really do understand why I don't write novels! Interesting read though ... cheers Hilary

    1. Knowing that I am going to try to get my novels done in audio format drives me to make my dialogue speakable! :-)

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Justine. Have a happy Friday the 13th. No Hockey Masks allowed!! :-)

  4. Three lines or less. Got it.
    Reading my dialogue out loud really helps.

    1. I often speak my planned dialogue in the shower! And as I write it is even better!! :-) Thanks for visiting!

  5. Wonderful tips, Ronald. Shared your insight on Twitter.

    Sorry to leave a link, Blogger won't allow my wordpress comment:
    Daily (w)rite

    1. Sigh. Rivalry on the internet, huh? Thanks for sharing my post no matter where you did it. :-)