From Dreaming to Publishing: Dialogue



This post is part of the “From Dreaming to Publishing” series.

  • Don’t patronize your reader. If it’s clear, resist the urge to explain.
  • Telling your character’s emotions is easy and wrong
  • Just show them, we’re all humans, we’ll get how he/she feels
  • Words and actions (beats) convey the emotion
  • “she said sadly” is a cheat, in reality she just said but with her chin trembling
  • Use the required speaker attributions for us readers to know who’s speaking and answering, from then on we can guess


  • Cutout emotions mentioned out of the dialogue
  • Highlight explanations, -ly adverbs, adjectives
  • Any physical impossibilities, like “she said smiling”?
  • Can you drop some speaker attributions? Replace with a beat?
  • Use “…” for thought gaps, and “–” for dialogue interruptions

book cover

This post is a personal summary of a chapter from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, which I read when preparing for NaNoWriMo. It warns amateur writers for the common pitfalls and provides solutions with examples. I’m sure you’ll find it useful too.