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3 Cs for writing dialogue: Editor's Notes #401
October 04, 2023

Nothing teaches you as much about writing dialogue as listening to it.
—Judy Blume

In this issue:

1. Three Cs for writing dialogue
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1.Three Cs for writing dialogue
Dialogue lends validity and immediacy. It reveals character, facts, and inner life and moves a plot forward.

Whether a piece of writing is full of dialogue or has only a sparse sprinkling of conversation, following three Cs for writing dialogue makes this important aspect of writing a powerful tool.

Each character who speaks should speak in a distinct voice. Just as you can identify someone’s voice in the real world, you can identify someone’s voice in well-written dialogue. In written dialogue, each character has a unique vocabulary. Certain words are known and used and others are never used by a particular character. Individuals have specific rhythms of speech. The best way to write each character’s voice consistently is to hear each voice in your head. Then write what you hear.

In general, when writing a dialect, it is more important to attend to grammar than pronunciation. Even then, light brush strokes are better than heavy. You want to suggest, not draw attention to, a different way of speaking.

If everyone is happy, you are at the end of your story. In the middle, you need conflict, and one good way to show conflict is through dialogue. Conflict can be between characters, within a character, or between a character and outside influences (nature or society or another entity). Good dialogue exposes the conflict or heightens it. If you are writing dialogue that has nothing to do with conflict, ask yourself why you need that piece of dialogue.

In the search for "realistic" dialogue, some writers produce passages that read like transcriptions of recorded conversations. These are full of asides, stops and starts, and um-ahs. Good dialogue is seriously compressed. Give the briefest possible version that will get the job done. To do that, you have to know the purpose of each piece of dialogue. Unsure of the purpose? Take out the dialogue. Does the story still stand? If so, leave out that dialogue.

Being aware of the three Cs of writing dialogue can lead to presenting a piece of writing that both editors and readers will appreciate.

2.Tickled my funny bone
All the ink spots were crying because their father was in the pen.

3. Interesting Web site
Learn from the best. The link below gives 15 examples of good dialogue and explains what they are doing and why they are good. dialogue/dialogue-examples/

4. Writing prompt
Choose one of the types of conflicts from the article above. Write a dialogue that shows the conflict. For bonus points, make the conflict as subtle as possible. I would love to see your result.

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