Sara Daniel Romance Author: Tuesday Toolbox - Dialogue Basics

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday Toolbox - Dialogue Basics

Dialogue has always been my favorite part of a book to write. That’s when the story truly flows for me. But dialogue is not intuitive for everyone, and some of the rules for commercial fictions are directly opposite from what we’re taught as school children.

My children’s teachers drum into my kids to come up with more descriptive words than “said” for their dialogue tag. Replied, retorted, shouted, screamed, hollered, demanded. Nope, forget it. Just use “said.” Said ends up being a placeholder that allows the reader to focus on the words that are actually being said, the content of the story. Fancy words break up the action and force the reader to notice the writing instead of the story.
  • Don’t use “said angrily” or “said sadly.” Replace the –ly word with a action, a stomp of a foot, a sigh, a tear trickling down the cheek that will show her anger/defeat/sadness instead.
  • Double quotation marks go around spoken dialogue.
  • Single quotes go around dialogue within dialogue.
  • Each person speaking gets a new paragraph.
       “What did John tell you?” Myrna asked.
       “He said, ‘go away.’ I thought he loved me,” Olga said, a tear trickling down her cheek.

In the above example, Myrna and Ogla speak in their own separate paragraphs. John’s words are in single quotes because they’re a quote within a quote, and we know that Olga is feeling sad.