• nolandediting

How to Create Great Dialogue

Dialogue can be tricky. You have to make it realistic, move the plot forward, maybe you reveal secrets and backstories.


Conversations between two people can be easier than large groups because you can use she, he, and they in many instances, whereas a group of six can be tricky.


The most important and most difficult to avoid is overusing ‘said’ and ‘asked.’


Use action beats instead.


What are Action Beats?


They are where your characters perform an action to indicate who is talking.


Let’s say you have your characters gather for a meeting. Everyone, or almost everyone, is going to be talking.


Bad dialogue example


Lim pulled a rickety old crate close to the alcove and straddled it so she could see anyone approaching and all of her fellow outlaws. “We need a plan before we attack the capital. Since the guards know our faces, our biggest challenge is getting through the gates,” she said.


Jamie stood, leaning against the stone wall, and said, “Our biggest challenge will be getting into the king’s chambers.” He crossed his arms and looked across the alley at Jackson for support.


“Jamie’s right. There will be more guards inside the castle,” Jackson agreed.


“I know where we can go over the wall and pass the outside guards all together,” Ami said from her perch on the trash bin. “If anyone cares to listen.”


Emile looked up at her, smiled, and said, “I care.”


“Fine,” Lim said, slapping her hands on her knees, a little frustrated. “Let’s hear your plan.”


“This ought to be good,” Jamie said, rolling his eyes.



Great dialogue example


Lim pulled a rickety old crate close to the alcove and straddled it so she could see anyone approaching and all of her fellow outlaws. “We need a plan before we attack the capital. Since the guards know our faces, our biggest challenge is getting through the gates.”


Jamie stood, leaning against the stone wall. “Our biggest challenge will be getting into the king’s chambers.” He crossed his arms and looked across the alley at Jackson for support.


“Jamie’s right. There will be more guards inside the castle.”


“I know where we can go over the wall and pass the outside guards all together,” Ami said from her perch on the trash bin. “If anyone cares to listen.”


Emile looked up at her and smiled. “I care.”


“Fine.” Lim slapped her hands on her knees, a little frustrated. “Let’s hear your plan.”


“This ought to be good.” Jamie huffed, rolling his eyes.


How characters speak


Effective dialogue also involves including what real people would say and how they say it.


A shy person might say, “Well, I don’t know. I mean . . .well, I just don’t know.” While some people talk like this, the style can feel repetitive to the reader. Try to limit this speech pattern to appear only a few times in the novel and only for this character.


Other sayings characters start speaking with which can feel repetitive are: Yeah. I know. Alright. What about. That means.


Full Sentences Aren’t Necessary


Don’t worry about full sentences or informal contractions—as long as those contractions aren’t overused and become difficult for the reader.


“Aren’t going to the party?”

“Don’t feel like it.”

“So, everybody’s going.”

“Gotta do what everyone else does?”

“No. Just sayin’.”


What about tone?


Tone can be expressed through telling, actions, stressed words, among others. It’s best to mix them up.


Alex couldn’t take his friends’ incessant talking anymore. “Shut it.” His words echoed through the cave.


Madelyn put her hand on his shoulder. “We’re only trying to help.”


“I need to think.” He shrugged her hand off. “Alone,” he added, and stormed away.


“What’s up with him?” Lexi asked, a little edge to her voice.


You’re his best friend. How do you not know his mother just died?”



Writing effective dialogue takes practice and revisions before you get it right.


Using an editor to guide you is a great way to get there faster!


Enjoy my editing, writing, and publishing advice? Sign up for my newsletter. I only send two per month, but they are filled with tips and tricks.



18 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All