Confession time: I’m super critical when it comes to dialogue in a book. I can more easily put up with weak plot and flat characters than bad dialogue.

I recently started a book on my Kindle, and I pretty quickly realized it was going to be kind of a goofy book, partly (I think) on purpose, and partly because the writer just hadn’t found her voice yet. But I was willing to go along with it because I found the story vaguely interesting after reading the first few pages. But pretty soon the awkward dialogue, and the ridiculously awkward descriptions of character’s movements during conversations had me groaning out loud. Much to the discomfort of the people sitting around me in the coffee shop.

I quickly closed the book, but found myself doing something I rarely do: wishing I had the actual book so I could throw it away and relieve some of my frustration.

Dialogue is everywhere around you. You probably can’t go an hour without observing or participating in dialogue in your daily life. And if you can, then you seriously need to get out more. Pay attention to what real dialogue sounds like, how it flows, and how people move their hands and bodies and how they interact while having a conversation. Then put those observations into your writing.

Dialogue is what brings a story to life. There’s no excuse for doing it badly.

For more about writing good dialogue, check out author Janet Fitch’s blog post “A Few Thoughts About Dialogue”.

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