Verbal Diarrhea – on dialogue

Adobe stock photo

Adobe stock photo

On writing dialogue

I hear it in my writers’ group often – there is a fear among many writers of failing at dialogue.

And it’s a valid fear.

The worst thing, as a reader, is to come across something on the page that pulls you out of the moment (or worse, the story).  And dialogue, that tricky minx, can pull your readers out of a story if you aren’t careful.

(Side note: I love this stock photo, it’s how I imagine my verbal diarrhea looks like.)

But how do you learn to write dialogue?

#1. LISTEN – Yep, I really did just yell that at you.  Listen to yourself talk.  Listen to your friends, family, people at work, people on the metro, people with drunken honesty at bars, people yelling at each other in a grocery store…

But it’s not enough to just listen, you have to pay attention too.

How do people talk? What kind of words do they use?

It depends on the person, of course.  But there are some words that people don’t use in every day conversations.  Flag those and take them out of your writing.

#2. Talk out your dialogue – So, you probably don’t want to do this in public or too loud. :p  But it really helps.

I’ve come up with some of my best scenes by talking it out to myself (while running, strangely enough).  It helps you listen to your own work and compare it with what your writer’s ear has heard in the past (see #1).

Does it sound clunky?  Do you stumble over it?  Well then, unless you want your character to stumble through it, you should probably refine it.

There, only two rules to help you hone your dialogue – totally manageable.  🙂  So, go forth and infuse your characters and story with believable dialogue. May your pens be mighty and dialogue be strong! 🙂

7 thoughts on “Verbal Diarrhea – on dialogue

  1. I am so guilty of talking out my dialogue too. It’s one of the things that pulls me out of a book or story faster than anything else, and I have to get it right.
    I always strive to make the dialogue match the setting as well. It’s in finding the balance between staying true to human (or animal) interaction and the place where the characters are that gets tricky. This is a shortcoming of many sci-fi and fantasy authors. They’d rather build the world than focus on the characters in it. The good ones can do both.
    Incidentally, it’s also why I like reading prose books by graphic novel authors. They have an intense focus in their dialogue, since most of their experience comes from only having dialogue to move their story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s an issue for a lot of writers – sometime you focus so much on the plot, world, and the story. But a lot of my stuff is character-driven, which is why I work a lot on dialogue – it helps make my characters more vivid. 🙂


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