Fiction writer Rowena Macdonald says she finds writing dialogue much easier than constructing a plot—because, as she says, dialogue is all around us in real life, whereas strong fiction plots are not. She then offers 10 tips for solid dialogue. My favorites:
- “Don’t write out ums and ers. They are realistic, but they look cartoonish in a piece of literature. Instead, use ellipses to give the impression of pauses or uncertainty.”
- “If writing dialogue for a character with a specific accent, don’t write it out phonetically, as this can look patronizing and old-fashioned. Use odd syntax and a few choice bits of slang to convey their accent.”
- “Don’t be afraid to let conversations hang unresolved in mid-air and move on to another scene.”
Read more dialogue tips here from Macdonald—plus check out these other pieces from this month’s Glimmer Train bulletin:
- Want by Selena Anderson
- On the Preconceptual World by George Saunders
- To My Unknown Daughter: On the Inheritance of Writing by Melissa Sipin
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has nearly 25 years of experience in the media & publishing industry. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses (How to Publish Your Book), she is the author of The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as Digital Book World and Frankfurt Book Fair, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.