D … is for dialogue


is for dialogue. We’ll take a brief look, at five aspects of today’s topic.


1. Direct speech.

This is the most commonly used means of conveying information, and producing conversation between characters.

“It really depends on house style, and your market place,” Tom said.

“Yes,” Jane agreed. “I suppose you’re right.”


2. Indirect speech.

We use this technique to avoid a long drawn out piece of dialogue.

“It really does depend on house style, and your market place,” Tom said, before going on for five minutes to explain a variety of points on the subject.

Jane listened and nodded, realising just how deep a subject it was.


3. Dialogue tags.

Examples: said, screamed, called, shouted, cried, exclaimed.

We don’t have to use a fancy word, when ‘said’ is the easiest to use, is the least obtrusive, and does the job. Don’t use a big word, because you might send your reader looking for a dictionary. Use something more descriptive if the scene benefits from it.

Keep dialogue short, sharp, and believable. It will keep the story moving forward, and it sounds natural. Try breaking up your dialogue with a tag in mid-sentence; which is something I do often.

“I’ve used it extensively in my novels,” Tom said. “It sounds natural, and allows the reader to take a breath.”


4. Thoughts.

When a character has a thought, it does not have quotation marks. They are thinking about it; not saying it.


5. Dialect.

This is one of my pet hates. I’m a Glaswegian. For anyone not of British descent, it means I’m originally from Glasgow, in Scotland. Allow me to demonstrate typical dialect from my hometown. It’s how I used to speak before I left home.

Billy said: “Ah telt ‘im ee’ wisnae gonnae geh’ ennae. Ee’ telt me tae piss aff ‘n mine ma’ ain bizniz.”

“Yurr takin’ thu pish,” Jimmy replied. “Ah’d a’ smakt ‘um in thu’ mooth.”

What is dialect? It’s not everyday language; it is the broad, colloquial tongue of a region or district. It is tedious to write, and awful to read. Why is it a pet hate of mine? It should only be done if the entire story is done in that style, or, if it’s the way a single character speaks at all times.

I’ve seen it in so many stories where the writer has changed back and forward from regular English language to regional dialect and back again, with one character. The character should speak one way or the other.

Thank you for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with ‘E’.


13 thoughts on “D … is for dialogue

  1. Julia Lund

    I try to avoid using inquits as much as possible, as well as adverbs, in dialogue. If it’s obvious who’s speaking, they are largely unnecessary and can interrupt the ‘reading dream’. Only because it’s late and my brain won’t function to come up with examples, I’ll copy a little of the opening dialogue from my novel here to try and highlight what I mean:
    ‘Do you think anyone’s ever actually died of boredom?’ Dee didn’t look up from her mobile.
    ‘If Shaw catches you on that again,’ I nodded to her phone, ‘you’ll never get the chance to find out.’
    I won’t say I never use them, but, as I once heard Terry Pratchett advise about using adjectives: imagine that each one costs you a fingernail.


  2. storyteller5

    I also really hate it when authors use dialect in their dialogue. I think it’s better to say someone speaks with an accent or with a regional dialect than actually quote them that way. It’s so tedious to read otherwise. You feel like you have to translate everything the character says. This may be one of the few times tell is better than show.


    1. Hello Damyanti and thank you for dropping in. It’s a bit hectic between the comments, new followers and reading others, but I suppose my latest novel is sucking the time out of my days. I’ll get over your way in the next day or two.


  3. Cecilia

    Direct and useful. I like it. I just bookmarked your page for future visits. Thank you


    1. It’s happened to me on more than one occasion, but the recent one was one of the worst. Writers shouldn’t really get so cocky that they experiment with a book that’s on sale. They should wait until they’ve become successful, and then they can think about it; and then forget it. Readers don’t want to pay for experimental writing.


  4. LOL! I’ve had the pleasure of speaking one-on-one with a bloke from Glasgow; we used to work together. Most of the time I’d nod my head because I had no idea what he was saying! So I prefer to NOT see dialect used in stories.
    As to the thought process (dialogue), my editor and I had a dilemma with this one. But hopefully we’ve got it right, now. 🙂
    Great posts by the way.


  5. This is something I need to practice. And was impressed I was able to read aloud and understand your Glaswegian dialect. It made me smile and took me straight back to when I lived there. Great theme and posts.


  6. Julia Lund

    This is a tricky one … my next novel is set on the west coast of Scotland, and has a mixture of Scottish and English characters. The word order and some of the vocab used in that part of the world is different to the English spoken south of the border. I’ve tried to signpost the differences through my dialogue rather than pretend everyone speaks the same way, but without making it seem like a foreign language. So far, it hasn’t caused problems for my test readers. I guess it remains to be seen whether they are representative. Personally, I really don’t mind reading dialect.


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