characters / dialogue / editing / writers tips / writing

Writer’s Tip #17: Use Dialogue Correctly

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip: Use dialogue for character development; put exposition and story details into action scenes

There are a lot of rights and wrongs of dialogue. This one you might not have been aware of. It’s from Screenwriting U, but fits us fiction writers as well.

Beginning writers often fill their dialogue with exposition and story details, thus reducing the amount of character and creativity that shows up in that dialogue. Don’t do it.

Instead, put the exposition, information, and story details into the action and situations.

For example, instead of a trainer telling a new boxer that a certain philosophy doesn’t work, have him put the character in the boxing ring and learn it by having his ass kicked. Now, the trainer doesn’t have to lecture. In fact, he is free to talk about anything – breakfast, politics, his favorite dog, etc. – because the real meaning is being delivered through the action.

Please add comments with your favorite editing fixes.

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4 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #17: Use Dialogue Correctly

  1. It’s the simple rule… ‘show don’t tell’… sucha versatile little motto. I also run the risk of overdoing the dialogue.

    In fact, I’ve kind of sorted this one out by myself. It’s a different method from yours, but it gives me the same results. If I think there is too much, or something it sounds off, I imagine the scene as a movie. I might imagine real actors in the place of my characters and imagine what they would do.

    What I’m left with is a dramatically cut down version of what I am trying to say. I’m forced to look at the scene through a different perspective, a visual one complete with camera angles, even a soundtrack.

    Of course, all this can’t be transcribe back into a novel, but it helps get rid of the unwanted clutter. It sharpens a scene that has become unfocussed.


  2. Hi Tahlia

    Yes, I’d say acceptance forgives any errors you may have made (not that you made any). BTW, I like your blog. May I list it in my Blogging Authors section?


  3. Once again, a helpful post. Thanks. I know I faced this challenge when writing my book because of the philosophy in it. It took me a while to get it right, but I got an agent to represent me, so I figure I got it sorted.

    Can I put a link from your site to mine?
    I’m at

    I think I already mentioned that you can read ch 1 of my YA fantasy novel there. You might have a helpful comment to make too.


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