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 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. 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 columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.