When two or more characters are having a conversation about something that everyone involved already knows, it becomes obvious that you, the author, are using dialogue as a tool to convey information to me, the reader. Now instead of being lost within the story, I’m reminded that I’m reading a book that you wrote, and that it’s all a construct that you created. The illusion is shattered, and I’m no longer invested.

Example:

Steve looked up from his paper as the door from the garage opened; his wife and daughter entered the kitchen.

“Rachel called,” he told them.

“What did she want?” Sharon asked, coming over to kiss him hello.

“To talk to Tracy. She refused to say what it was about, but knowing her and how she tried to sue for custody of Amy before, it can’t be good.”

Sharon shook her head and turned to their daughter. “Have you been in touch with her at all since the court case?”

The Problem:

 Everyone in this conversation clearly already knows that Rachel tried to sue for custody, so it’s not believable for Steve to talk this way to people who already have this information. Plus, there’s an opportunity to show us in the very next line through Sharon’s dialogue that there was a custody case.

The Solution:

Steve looked up from his paper as the door from the garage opened; his wife and daughter entered the kitchen.

“Rachel called,” he told them.

“What did she want?” Sharon asked, coming over to kiss him hello.

“To talk to Tracy. She refused to say what it was about, but knowing her and how she tried to sue for custody of Amy before, it can’t be good.”

Sharon shook her head and turned to their daughter. “Have you been in touch with her at all since the court custody case?”

Alissa McGowan

Alissa McGowan

Alissa is the founder and owner of Red Pen for Rent. She is passionate about helping authors make their work fucking awesome.
Alissa McGowan

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Writing Tip: Your Craft is Showing—Dialogue

by | Jan 20, 2017