“Dialog!” he shouted.

I thought I’d take a break from my marketing adventures to talk about something that I really love.

“You’ve already told us what it is, you dolt.”

“No,” I say. “Not directly, I haven’t.”

“But we know already. It’s in the damned title of this post. In dialog, never tell us what we already know.”

“Oh,” I say. “Well, I just thought that –”

“And don’t tell us boring stuff that we don’t want to hear. If it’s dialog, it better be gripping. So, you were saying?”

“Never mind.”

Dialog, in my opinion, should be the high point of a story. It is the point in the movie trailer when the music stops, the camera zooms onto the character’s face, there is a dramatic pause, and the movie character says …

Well, I don’t know what the movie character says. That’s just it. I know it’s going to be something brilliant, or hilarious, or at the very least lewd. And I can’t wait to hear what it is. *That’s* dialog. And now you know a little secret of mine. When I need a good line, when I need the character to absolutely smash the next bit of dialog, I imagine the scene as a movie trailer. I add music in my head, I let the camera whirl around the characters, then I dolly in for a close up and the character says….

One of them is going to say something, and it damn well better be good.

Try it. It really works for me. If you imagine the line of dialog as a line from a movie trailer it puts you in the right frame of mind. At least it does for me. And it often works. Want proof? Here are a few lines from some of my writings that I came up with using just this technique:

The archer expanded the arc of her swinging bow to include all of them. “I have heard enough Laraytian promises,” she said. “Rape. Torture. Mutilation. I have seen what Laraytian soldiers do to the women of Gracidmar.”

“Aw, don’t take it to heart, luv,” said Shanks smiling. “We do that to all women.”

From, The Beast of Maug Maurai, Book One, The Culling

Hammer nodded sagely, drank. “My mum used to say that every lie eats a little ‘a your soul.”

     “She said that, eh? Well, sometimes the truth makes someone feel like horse dung. Did she ever talk to you about lying to make someone feel better?”

     “Aye. She said them lies are even worse. ’cause the person you’re telling the lie to knows the truth, deep down. And so, deep down, they know you’re a liar.”

From, The Beast of Maug Maurai, Book Two, The Forest

Grae sent everyone away except for Sage. He sat on the ground and gestured for the scout to join him.  Sage knew the look on Grae’s face, spoke before the brig could. “Am I in trouble?”

“Should you be in trouble?” asked Grae.

“I shouldn’t,” said Sage. “And yet, I always seem to be.”

“You’re not in trouble,” said Grae.

“You’re just saying that to prove me wrong.”

From, The Beast of Maug Maurai, Book Two, The Forest


“I wish to dance,” she said. “Play for me, fool. Something wild and romantic, fast and meloncholy.”

     Sage took the fiolys and plucked a few strings. “Any suggestions?”

            “Yes,” she said. “I suggest you play well.”

From, The Beast of Maug Maurai, Book Two, The Forest

Just some fun dialog twists. Maybe not brilliant, but fun and, I think, interesting. 

Don’t use dialog to do your menial work. Dialog is the gem in the setting. Use it to make what you have written sparkle. Let yourself enjoy it. Think about the best possible way a character can say what you want him or her to say. The most interesting way.

Too often I see writers using dialog for the “Hello,” he said. “Hello,” she replied, sort of stuff. We don’t need that in dialog. If a character answers a phone, don’t put “Hello?” in quotes. I’m pretty sure we’re all clear on what answering a phone involves. Unless the character answers it in a truly interesting way. That’s what we want to hear. The dialog then will not only entertain, but help to define your character.

He fumbled for the ‘answer’ button and mumbled,”I need a new proctologist.”

 That’s all for now. More on dialog a little later.

Thanks for listening.