Story Tips

25. Writing great dialogue

Although most successful writers understand the importance of plot points and have mastered the art of telling a story through the use of action, they also know that dialogue will often be the thing that makes or breaks their career.

Some people think that when it comes to writing great dialogue, you either have it or you don’t, but I disagree. Of course there are writers who are born with a gift, and those brilliant lines seem to effortlessly spill out onto the page. I wish I was one of them, but the truth is I’m not. I’ve had to teach myself how to write strong dialogue and I truly believe that you can too!

And what better way to start than to begin to recognise what makes bad dialogue.

Bad dialogue is boring and generic. It lacks emotion and attitude and could easily belong to any character. Bad dialogue doesn’t have any strong meaning or make any important point. Bad dialogue is ‘on the nose’ and says exactly what is happening or what we as an audience probably already know. Bad dialogue is confusing and disjointed and difficult to read. It goes on and on… and on… and there is nothing we will remember.

Great dialogue hooks us and keeps us hooked. It’s filled with attitude and emotion and could only belong to each unique character. Great dialogue says a lot and often contains layers of hidden meaning underneath the words. Great dialogue sounds great when you read it, and from time to time you’ll even begin to write those amazing lines that your audience will remember for years to come.

Learning to write great dialogue takes time and practice. You need to push yourself to go beyond what first goes onto the page. You need to engage the editor inside you who will tell you to rewrite and rewrite again until it’s good, but won’t let you stop until it’s great!

Image: Jason Salmon/

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