“Ah, dialog,” the author quipped. “Need we even bother?”
“You bet we need to bother,” the voice of reason interjected. “Dialog is the spice of fiction writing and can even come into play in non-fiction when quoting sources.”
“Alas, you’re right again, Voice of Reason (VOR),” the author retorted. “As always, you’re right again…”
Note: The following is an excerpt from Fundamental Writing Skills for Self-publishing Beginners.
1 Fundamental Rules for Writing Dialog
The following are the fundamental rules of dialog. If you follow these rules, your dialog will be consistent, and you’ll be less likely to confuse your reader.
1.1 Quoting a Single Line of Dialog
Place dialog within double-quotes. Em-dashes, or long dashes, are sometimes used to begin dialog in European countries. Single quotes are never used to quote dialog.
Note that what’s being said along with the terminating punctuation are included within the double-quotes.
1.2 Quoting Multiple Lines of Dialog
Multiple sentences should be quoted using a single pair of double-quotes, even if those sentences span multiple paragraphs.
1.3 Attributing Dialog to a Person
To attribute a quote to someone, conclude the quote with a comma, and then add a reference to the person that said the quote.
1.4 Separating Dialog Between Multiple People
As the speaker changes, specify the dialog for each new speaker using a new paragraph.
1.5 Naming the Person Being Addressed
“Excuse me, Mr. William. Would you please step this way?”
“Billy, you useless sack of flesh,” Pa bellowed. “Get yourself over here right now before I take my belt to ya!”
2 Final Words of Advice
To find your character’s voice, you must become your character!
Use local vernacular and language to support setting and define place.
Avoid anachronisms such as modern tools and language when writing historically or off world.
When inventing a new language or writing in Gaelic or Welsh, avoid too much realism – i.e. keep it recognizable to modern readers
Consider giving each character some distinctive vocal mannerism or affectation so readers can recognize them
“I shan’t be able to ride the road at night.”
“Aye, ya shan’t at that, young laddie. Best ye stay the night.”
Use oui or eh to suggest French or Canadian accents; but again, don’t overdo it!
3 Dialog Writing Workshop
“Why won’t you listen to me when I speak?”
“Because you don’t have anything to say!”
Irene stewed in her husband’s response for only an instant before responding.
“You’re such a stinker,” she pronounced. “Why can’t you treat me at least like a human being?”
George looked up to his wife only to shake his head. He’d heard this old familiar speech before, and frankly, he was tired of it.
“What is it you want from me, Irene? Do you want me to beg for silence?” George pleaded.
“No, George,” Irene replied, pulling George’s old service revolver from the pocket of her apron. “I want you to beg for your life, you stinker!”
4 Dialog Writing Exercises
“Gee, I wonder what this chapter assignment will be about?”
Ignore the snide smart guy and keep on reading…
“Go ahead and guess,” the author taunted.
I had no other way to respond but to play my last card, so I played it to the hilt.
“Two!” I pronounced proudly in the highest stakes game of lowball I’d ever attended – as a player that is.
I reached forward to sweep in all the chips dominating the center of the table, but my adversary stopped me with nothing more than a gentle touch.
“Sorry,” my opponent proclaimed, as he often did before pulling off a miracle. “I don’t have any more cards.” He smiled that sickening, chaw stained smile. “That makes me low hand.”
“What does that mean?” I demanded in confusion.
“It means that I win again, sucker!”
My daddy always proclaimed that I was the worst gambler he’d ever met.
“Sonny,” he would say, tousling my hair before becoming too old to reach my height. “You’re smart, but you possess no joss,” he declared, using the Chinese word for luck.
Write dialog! Write a lot of dialog! Write it in your journal!
I’ll see you in the classroom,