Tips for Writing Dialogue and Getting it Right

Courtesy of Script Magazine & Google

From the Cow Pasture Archieves: Enjoy

Writing dialogue is one of the most challenging skills for writers to learn. Conversations dominate our lives on a day-to-day basis, but we rarely, if ever, focus on the tone, rhythm, or body language when engaged.

I like to people watch. The mall or similar venues are great places to hone this skill. Observing other’s interactions offers a treasure trove of different gestures, tones,  words, body language, and action, to use in your stories.

Writing dialogue isn’t as easy as watching a conversation. In real life, we don’t have to worry about commas, speech tags, unclear antecedents, tone, or rhythm, or who is speaking. But, when writing, we must convey all of those aspects and more.

One of the stories in my upcoming short story collection is almost entirely dialogue. I have revisited that story a million times to ensure the conversation between the two men flow, sound natural, and is believable. That’s a rabbit hole best left for another discussion. Ultimately, readers will determine if I did my job well or not. For those of you who struggle, as I do, following are a few tips I’ve learned along the way and trust me, I’m not the expert.

 Writing Dialogue:

  1. Short sentences are best.
  2. Use contractions unless your story dictates a more formal language or it is a characteristic of one of your characters.
  3. Make it clear who is speaking.
  4. Don’t overuse the characters names.
  5. Keep dialogue tags simple as in: said, asked, replied, and answered. Using verbs like whispered, shouted, or stammered are permissible, but don’t over do it.
  6. Don’t forget body language which often speaks louder than words.
  7. Stay away from dialects unless you’re an expert in the dialect.
  8. Characters shouldn’t sound like duplicates of each other. We all have our own distinctive manner of speaking; characters should too.
  9. In real life, we often say, um, ah, or trail off in the middle of a sentence, but use sparingly, unless it’s reflective of a particular characters speech pattern.
  10. Make sure the conversation has a purpose. In real life, we talk about topics that would never keep a reader’s interest. For example using coffee grounds to fertilize the soil of house plants. Unless discussing coffee grounds is significant to the story – like say,  burying a murder instrument underneath the coffee grounds – I’d leave that conversation out of the story.

Speaking of observation, here is a look at one of my all time favorite scenes. Whoever wrote this dialogue, rich in words, body language, gestures, and action. It was magnificent. Enjoy.

Want more information on dialogue? Check out these resources:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Join the conversation. Talk to me or tell me your story. I’m all ears.

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What I’ve Learned About Querying

Querying tips

I’ve been as invisible as a ghost over the last month because I entered the maze of querying agents for my manuscript, Hello Hell. Let me tell you, it can be a scary place if you don’t know what you’re doing or follow the process as outlined by every, single, agent. So, here’s a few tips, I’ve learned aloong the way. Feel free to share your own.

  1. Pick your resources: Writer’s Digest, MSWL, Querytracker, or Writer’s Market.
  2. Identify those agents open for submissions and who are requesting manuscripts in your genre.
  3. Publications don’t always tell the whole story related to a specific agent, so do your reasearch.
  4. Make a list. Note siginifcant specifics about each agent.
  5. Read the agents profile, website, Twitter account and any other site they provide to get a good feel for whether he/she might be a good fit. For example, a profile may list they are interested in womne’s fiction but when you did deeper, there is a very specific type of women’s fiction they are interested in. Unless your manuscipt fits within that narrow scope, mark them off your list.
  6. Read through the agency, research all the agents listed, the books they have published, and their submission guidelines. 
  7. Perfect your query again and again. Don’t write one and think it will serve all. Some agents are very particular regarding what they want to see in a querying and the layout. So, be prepared to have numerous versions as you gothrough the process.
  8. Keep track of each query sent to each agent. This is important because you can’t querying more than one agent within an agency. So, pay attention to your list. I use Query Tracker which provides valuable insight into an agent:  response times, genre reports, percentage of responses, and the number of negative and positive responses. 
  9. Setup reminders to followup (nudge an agent) or to mark a query as closed. Some agents specify that after x number of weeks, “assume we have reviewed your work and are going to pass on it.”
  10. Understand querying is a process. It’s takes time, patience, and a thick skin. Whether an agent likes your work or not is often subjective. So keep things in perspective and don’t take a rejection personally.

Hope these tips help and if you have a tip, please share with us in the comment section. Good luck.

I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story. I’m all ears and look for me on Facebook Page  at SheilaMcIntyreGood, PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.