Two Points About Dialogue

written by Ken Preston | Creativity, Editing

January 26, 2024

  1. Using dialogue to relay information can be an effective way of avoiding chunks of exposition that halt the flow and pace of your story, but don’t use expository dialogue. Very few people talk this way.
  2. Remember points four and five of Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing:
Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"…he admonished gravely.

For example, don't do this:

‘Why did you steal all the money?’ Anna asked anxiously.

‘I couldn’t help myself,’ Steve whined.

‘Oh, you’ve got to give it back!’ Anna implored.

‘No, I won’t,’ Steve said assertively.

Instead let the dialogue hint at what these two are saying, instead of trying to make it explicit.

Anna picked up a pack of bills and rifled through it. ‘You stole this?’

‘Yeah,’ Steve said.

‘Steve?’ She looked at him. ‘What’s going on?’

‘I took some cash.’ He shrugged. ‘They won’t miss it.’

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