Monday, May 1, 2017

Yacking, Conversation, or Dialogue

Our theme for May at the Blood-Red Pencil blog is dialogue and all the ways we use it - correctly and incorrectly - in fiction. We'll talk about how to properly punctuate, when to use dialog tags, how to develop character voice, and even how to move your plot with effective dialogue.

Here's an example of how to create real action and a sense of urgency through dialogue:

Lt. Eve Dallas is the heroine in J.D. Robb's longstanding In Death series.  At the end of Thankless In Death, she directs her police team for the big sting. The reader knows her methods, her people, and how this scenario will go down, and the dialogue is all about setting the stage and building tension.
"That's how it's going to work," she finished. "McNab, eyes and ears, Roarke security, and between you you'll shut down all electronics and power to that unit on my go. Team A - me, Peabody, Officers Carmichael and Prince, main-level door. Team B - Detectives Carmichael and Sanchez, Officers Rhodes and Murray, second-level door - enter on my go. Officers Kenson and Ferris will hold position here, block and disperse any and all civilians from entering the hot zone. Are we clear?"
"Yes, sir."
"No lights, no sirens, and no black-and-whites within a block of the target building. Protective gear is worn. This is not optional. Again, if the subject is seen exiting the building before this op is in place, take him down. If he's seen inside the building, track but do not engage. We're moving" she added. "Go in soft, wait for my orders. All weapons, medium stun."
There is no question who is in charge here, and what is happening. In a few short paragraphs the tone, tension, and action are set. It doesn't get any better than this!

Please join us over the course of the month for more tips, ideas, and conversations about using dialogue well.

Leave us a comment about how you use dialogue in your writing. Is writing it easy or hard for you? What tricks do you have for giving your characters distinctive voices?

Dani Greer is founding member of this blog. She is a writer, editor, artist, and queen of Utopian Press. You can connect with her at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



  1. Dialogue is my favourite part of writing. Often if I hit a block, I unblock by getting my characters chatting. Sometimes I keep that chatter; sometimes I don't. But it eats word count better than anything else for me.

  2. Dialogue is my favorite, too. Well done, as is the example Dani included above, it's an effective tool for giving the reader insight into one or more characters while avoiding the pitfall of a narrative information dump.

  3. I have learned a lot about writing strong dialogue by writing scripts and plays and in acting. There is nothing better, in my mind, than playing out scenes and seeing how dialogue can flow. I will be writing my post about this for this coming Wednesday.

  4. I love dialogue too. In fact, my first draft reads more like a movie script than a novel. I fill in the details in a revision.

  5. Who am I to disagree. Dialogue is the center of gravity in a book. There are times my critique partner goes on too long with internal dialogue, and I'm always telling her to turn it into dialogue dialogue. I did try a screenplay, and now I think I can make it better with dialogue that makes the character move without telling the reader s/he is moving. Next effort, after I finish my WIP.

    1. I hope someone writes about inner dialogue this month - one of my least favorite things. So often, it just sounds like snark from the author's head.

  6. I am like Dani, my first draft is mostly dialogue and a little choreography. Then I revise it and make it count.

  7. It's a way to show character, setting, dialogue!

  8. I love well-written dialogue, and struggle with it, myself, in my own writing. I am looking forward to this month here at the blog!


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