Thursday, May 8, 2014

Writing Dialogue that Breathes by Debby Mayne

Debby Mayne
Dora here. Do you struggle with writing dialogue? I confess... some days are easier than others, so I appreciate these tips by Debby Mayne. Next week she will be back with three more tips to write compelling dialogue, so be sure to pop back by. Enjoy! ~Dora

One of the key components to a successful story is dialogue, so spend some time working on improving the skill of writing it. Most newbie fiction authors struggle with dialogue at first, but after you find the groove, you'll look forward to the next conversation between your characters. I've judged quite a few writing competitions, and one of the things that I look for is compelling dialogue.

In my opinion, strong dialogue is the foundation of a compelling, character-driven story. I use it to drive my plot, and the scenes typically flow much more smoothly when my characters take over. I've been amazed and entertained by what comes out of my story people's mouths.

Next time you're out among people, zip your lips and just listen. I'm the biggest eavesdropper out there, but I think it's one of the reasons my dialogue has improved over the years. Pay attention to various scenarios. A conversation between a mother and her daughter in the fitting room is quite different from a discussion between a husband and wife about where to go for their next vacation.

Use what you learn sparingly. 

Accents are wonderful to add to a story as long as you sprinkle them in. Don't overdo it, though, or you may lose your reader who gets bogged down trying to figure out what the character is saying. Most people have back-and-forth interaction with occasional interruptions. When writing dialogue, it's fine to add some of this, but remember that the written word needs to make more sense than a live conversation.

Small Talk
Some small talk is fine, but omit all but the most essential conversation that drives the story forward. When people greet each other, they often spend several minutes saying insignificant things that you should condense in order to hold your readers' interest. After a brief greeting among your characters, get to the interesting part.

Avoid using dialogue to do a backstory dump. Having your characters rehash something that happened in 1985, simply to provide information for the reader, is a sign of someone who doesn't want to go to the trouble of working it into the story in a more natural way. Don't provide too much information all at once in dialogue. Leave your readers wanting more.

Purchase Link
Dixie Belle and Uptown Belles series Blurb 
In Dixie Belle, book one of the Uptown Belles series, sparks fly when Cissy Hillwood arrives in New York City from her Alabama hometown and meets her uncle’s fiercest competitor.
SERIES DESCRIPTION: In this fish-out-of-water contemporary romance series, three Southern belles living and working in New York City develop a friendship based on their fondness and homesickness for the South. Although they’re different from each other in many ways, they share a love for the South and faith in Christ. And they each fall victim to Cupid, one at a time and when they least expect it. At least they have each other for venting, laughing with, and…shopping.

Debby Mayne has published more than 30 books and novellas, 400 print short stories and articles, more than 1,000 web articles, and a slew of devotions for women. She has also worked as managing editor of a national health magazine, product information writer for HSN, a creative writing instructor for Long Ridge Writers Group, and a copy editor and proofreader for several book publishers. For the past eight years, she has judged the Writers Digest Annual Competition, Short-Short Contest, and Self-Published Book Competition. Three of Debby’s books have been top ten favorites by the Heartsong Presents book club. Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida received 4-1/2 stars and was named a "Top Pick" by Romantic Times Magazine. Her latest book, Dixie Belle, is the first in the Uptown Belles series published by Charisma House.


  1. Just the topic I needed, Debby! Loved, "written word needs to make more sense than a live conversation." There's so much responsibility resting on dialogue. Thanks so much for breaking it down for us today!

  2. Debby, I love writing dialogue. My first drafts are usually heavy on dialogue. What I really love is you just gave me carte blanche to eavesdrop in the name if research. LOL.

    I recently read For The Love of Pete. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

  3. I think dialogue is the most fun part of writing books. Terri, when I get caught eavesdropping, I always use research as my excuse. :) Thanks for the kind words about For the Love of Pete. That was a blast to write!

  4. Hi Debby, such great stuff here. I think it helps to read your dialogue out loud once you've written it. Far too often, I see sentences in dialogue that are SO LONG our fictional character would be gasping for breath before the end. It's always okay to use fragments in confersation. Very few of us speak with grammatical and literary correctness, anyway.

  5. On those rare occasions when writing dialogue gives me grief, I switch to writing mostly description, and then go back and add dialogue later. I like your idea of eavesdropping, not something I usually do, but I'll try it. :) Thanks for guesting today, Debby. Looking forward to next week!

  6. Examples and comparisons would have greatly improved this article.


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