Narrative speech: he said, she said

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Dialogue is conversation,

but streamlined (take out the irrelevant stuff while still keeping the sense of ordinary conversation)

Every sentence of your dialogue should serve one or more of the following purposes:

• help to strengthen each individual’s characterization

how they speak and what they think is important to talk about

•convey mood (tension)

•convey knowledge from one character to the other, AND TO THE READER

cause characters to interact

•tell us what one or both are thinking

•show us the undercurrents of their relationship

talking about how to storm the castle;

sexual interest or if they hate one another, or if they’re a mother/son

lead to action

•work through a decision that must be made, debate or discussion, but only while it’s still moving the story forward (often you want them to actually do these things; but some are just stupid, and they will destroy your character’s credibility if they do more than immediately discount them.

•directly cause action: goading a bully

• keep the story moving

fastest part of prose is well written dialogue
Often dialogue is about two things: what it’s about, and something else.

Two people with different agendas:

Jeff: “I hate Myrtle, she’s always so sneaky.”

Jenny: “She‘s not so bad.”

defending herself; defending her gender; just being contrary (cramps, or she’s mad at Jeff); she genuinely likes Myrtle; she‘s being sarcastic; =She’s= not so bad, but you or someone else is; she doesn’t like being negative.
Figure out what is being said out loud and what’s under it. make sure they both point toward what the next action in your story, or toward developing the theme of your story.


have people talk to themselves

don’t waste time: cut to the chase

use said bookisms: he ejaculated; she purred; the robot droned

use adverbs: said cattily, said viciously

when you do use hissed, cried, etc., make sure they’re appropriate

in a 2-person dialogue, you don’t always need attribution:

use tone and action

use much dialect or funny spellings to indicate accents; (dialect, ESL, stereotyping, pidgin or Common Tongue, stammering

rely on word choice and order to give the same impression

use elevated language unless it’s appropriate to the character:

thees and thous will kill a story


keep each section of the dialogue short and snappy

break up big chunks with interaction between characters

use action to show things rather than use said bookisms and adverbs to say.

give your characters “business,” and make it relevant, even a small story, try/fail cycle (trying to start a fire when they’re arguing about survival)

eliminate or rewrite anything that doesn't move your story forward.

NARRATOR; 1st person fiction

is a character speaking in a monologue: let me tell you the story of when this happened to me.

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