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7 Tips for Good Dialogue

Dialogue can be tricky even for experienced writers, it is a sort of art form in itself. Here are seven basic tips from how I approach it.

Keep it simple.

Try to limit every line that is spoken to under five words.


Pay attention to how people speak to each other. What I mean here is to listen to how people form sentences in conversation. Often they do not use proper grammar or even complete sentences.


After you listen to enough conversations you’ll start to realize that conversations are generally boring for everyone except the person speaking. However if there is an argument or debate happening the conversation is all of a sudden interesting. Keep this in mind when choosing which conversations to keep and which ones to edit.

If there is not conflict there needs to be an engaging reason for the conversation. For instance revealing a clue to one of the stories mysteries or an interesting facet of a characters past.


Not to say humor is separate from conflict but if the dialogue cannot have conflict another way to keep it interesting is to interject humor.

Characters and Setting.

Those things are what I consider to be the basics that generally apply to all dialogue. But when it comes to actually writing the dialogue in a scene here are three elements to keep in mind. These are the characters, their relationships and the setting. The important part here is to make sure all three are in alignment.

An extreme example of a mismatch would be two characters who do not know each other arguing over what to have for dinner while trying to escape a burning building. It just doesn’t fit with their relationship or the setting.

Blatant Setup.

The next thing would be to avoid blatant info dump setups. For instance if a character asks a question they need to have some motivation for seeking the answer. If the only motivation for the question is ‘the reader needs to know this right now’ it will appear unrealistic.



My editor would kill me if I did not mention format. One of the most common dialogue fumbles is how it is structured. Here is a link to help you get started with proper format: First manuscript.

Good luck in your next story. If you enjoyed reading or found this helpful check out the rest of my blog here.

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