Dialogue is the hardest thing for me to write. I mean, I know what I want my characters to say most of the time, but it’s tough making their speech sound natural. And the difference between good dialogue and poorly written dialogue can make or break fiction of any length. Nothing kills suspension of disbelief quite as quickly as a conversation between characters that sounds contrived and forced.

I often use Steinbeck‘s method to check my own dialogue. And not just dialogue. I’ll read anything out loud to make sure it sounds right before I declare it finished, even if I have to whisper it to keep from being heard. (I already sound half-mad talking about my characters like they’re real people. I don’t need anyone thinking I’m talking to myself. Or them.)

You can’t know how something sounds until you hear it.

Surprisingly, I can’t recall a single teacher I’ve ever had recommend this simple technique. If you don’t do this already, I highly recommend it. Few things will give your dialogue an instant make-over as effectively.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

2 Responses to dialogue

  1. lacolem1 says:

    The Steinbeck method is an awesome final check. As far as developing an ear for the rhythms and idiosyncrasies of dialogue, some writers recommend sitting in a public place, like a mall, and just listening. Men, women, teens, couples–listen to them all, absorb their interactions, and try to replicate. From personal experience, anyway, the worst thing to do is listen to tv, specifically reality tv.

    Above all, I’ve had to remind myself that written dialogue should only an approximation of real-life dialogue. It should avoid excess, just like the rest of your prose.


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