Did I Say That Out Loud? Tips for Writing Dialogue

Ruth Roberts

Ernest Hemmingway has been called the master of dialogue. So who better to go to for advice than a master? On writing great dialogue he said: When people talk, listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen.

So how can we take that advice and put it into practice? I’m going to cover five things we can do so that our books have great dialogue.

1. Listening is the beginning of great dialogue. We are around people everyday, whether it’s at work or at school, while we are shopping, when we take our kids to the park. People are everywhere. Most of the time we tune them out. Now it’s time to tune back in. Develop the skill of eavesdropping. What are their speech patterns? What’s the content of their conversation? Our goal as writers is to make conversation between two characters seem realistic…

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How to Expand Your Novel


You’ve been working on your novel or your short story, but you’re stumped. There’s something off about your story, something that makes it hard to believe, not to mention your word count might be lower than you anticipated.

How do you go about remedying this? How can you expand your work?

One way is through narration.

  • Force your characters to do more, go bigger. You want to push them outside their comfort zone.
  • You want to make sure there are enough obstacles in your characters way to make what they’re doing have a big emotional and physical impact.
  • Find ways to reveal your characters’ internal states of mind – their thoughts, beliefs, ideals, fears– through their actions, or lack thereof.

Another way to expand is through description.

  • Find ways to show tension and movement through description.
  • Show what’s happening through sensory details. Make readers experience the same sensations your characters…

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A monologue in a novel?


Do writers put monologues in novels? I’m sure they do. Or they have.

My wife, who is a voracious reader, can’t remember any long monologues in the hundreds of books that she has read — at least not the type of monologue I’m talking about.

I like monologues. They are great in plays – a dramatized, well-written monologue can be completely consuming.

But what about in novels?

The reason I bring it up is that I’m currently working on my fifth novel. It’s been a productive week of writing, pushing over 13,000 words. And as I was writing the final scene of court case where the defending attorney was giving his final statement, I decided to go full-fledged monologue. What I mean by is that this monologue could be in a dramatic work, but it’s right in the middle of a novel. There’s no description with it. There’s no describing…

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6 Reasons Why Your Dialogue Sucks (And 7 Ways to Improve)


Rather Than Writing

I don’t care what anyone says, dialogue is hard. Every writer struggles to make character conversations seem realistic. But the good news is that it does get easier if you know which traps to look out for and how to fix them.

1. Your Characters Sound Alike

No one talks like anyone else they know. Sure, friends and family may pick up some of the same vocabulary, like slang and regional word usage, but no two people talk exactly the same. People use different sentence structures, nuances, and tropes in every day speech. The same person may even talk completely differently depending on the context of the conversation. Work on discovering the different ways people talk and representing them on the page. Each character you represent with dialogue should sound different from every other character.

2. Your Characters Think Alike

People don’t think the same as others. They don’t…

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