characters / dialogue / writers resources / writers tips

Writer’s Tip #21: Dialogue vs. Narrative

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: Balance how much dialogue and narrative you put in your book

Dialogue speeds the action up. Narration slows action down. Some experts (i.e., the acclaimed New York literary agent Evan Marshall) say you should have a ‘reaction’ scene (which tends to be narrative, introspective, interior monologue) after every ‘action’ scene (which tends to include a lot of dialogue). It forces you to explain the implications of what just happened in the plot and thus, make sure the reader understands.

I have to admit, it’s a struggle for me to do what I’ve just said. I often find when I edit that I’ve put into narrative what should have been in dialogue, and vice versa. What do you think? And how do you make sure you avoid those pitfalls?

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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