Guest Post: Judith Marshall On Writing Dialogue


This is a guest post by Judith Marshall on writing dialogue in fiction. Marshall is the author of Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, which has been optioned for the big screen. The book is available in both print and as an ebook on Amazon. For more information, go to www.judithmarshall.net.

Tips on writing good dialogue:

1. Resist using adverbs in dialogue tags, e.g., She said shyly.

2. In a two-person conversation, don’t tag every line with he said or she said. The reader can figure out who’s speaking.

3. Don’t have a character laugh at what another character says. Let the reader decide if something is funny.

4. Avoid introduction dialogue, e.g., “Hi, how are you?” Cut to the meat of the conversation.

5. Don’t use dialogue as a data dump to inform the reader, e.g. “remember the time we…”

6. Don’t apologize for a change of subject. Don’t say, “Like we were talking about earlier …”

7. Summarize where possible: They shared pictures of their grandchildren. When you do this, it’s fine to add something colorful, like, Helen thought Jackie’s grandkids were more attractive than hers. Remember, dialogue should be there because the characters want to talk. It should either reveal something about the character or move the story forward – one or the other.

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