From Dreaming to Publishing: Dialogue beats


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

  • Beats are descriptions or actions between dialogue, e.g. walking, grabbing, and all that “stage-business”
  • Fewer beats » less interruptions
  • High tension » relax with beats
  • Writers may overuse beats because they lack confidence and feel the urge to explain everything
  • However they’re great to let the dialogue breath, add texture and variety, develop a character’s personality*
  • Readers aren’t fools, they can picture what you’re saying, don’t limit their imagination
  • Find your rhythm and balance


  • How often do you interrupt dialogue with beats?
  • Familiar everyday actions as beats? Drop them!
  • Do your beats fit the rhythm? Read out loud

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.