Some Thoughts on Dialogue

But first, a knock, knock joke:

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Interrupting Sheep.

Interrupting Sheep w –

Image    BAA!*


Heeheehee! That’s my favourite knock, knock joke. (Now you see why I write for kids.)

Seriously, though, there’s a reason I subjected you to that, and it has to do with dialogue. Thanks to my crit partners I’ve learned a lot about the art of writing dialogue, and I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned here today.

1)      People (and sheep, apparently) are impatient. We don’t always wait for someone to finish talking before butting in with our own story/answer/opinion. If your characters are excited, angry, or just impatient, they’re not going to wait for another character to finish a long speech just because it contains important plot points.

2)      An info dump in dialogue is still an info dump. Just because you need your MC to know that the library he’s in was built in 1921 after it was destroyed by a fire that killed three people, etc, etc, doesn’t mean you should have another character recite those facts to him like a walking encyclopedia. Find another way to work the information in gradually. Which brings us to:

3)      The three sentence rule. This kind of ties in to both of the points I’ve made above. Never have a character say more than three sentences without being interrupted or exchanging dialogue. Why? Because when was the last time you sat there silently when someone droned on and on? Ok, there are exceptions. Like if you have a character who is a chatterbox, or boring, or whatever, but as a general rule, this one’s a keeper. (I have a soft spot for old mystery novels, and it’s started to really bug me how often someone prattles on for pages and pages while everyone else in the room just listens avidly.)

What about you? Do you have any dialogue-writing tips to share? Put them in the comments, I’m always glad for new writing tips.


Oh, and for anyone wondering how writing went last week: I drafted a PB, added 2800 words to my WIP, and came up with an awesome idea for a contemporary MG – and managed to whip up another dragon cake for my daughter’s school cake raffle. Yay!


*Author’s Note: I didn’t write this joke. I’d love to give props to the actual author, but I don’t know who it is.


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