O'Reilly logo

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Crafting Dynamic Dialogue

Book Description

Write authentic dialogue that invigorates your story!

Exceptional dialogue isn't just important when writing fiction--it's essential. In order to impress an agent or editor and keep readers turning pages, you need to deliver truly standout dialogue in every scene. Crafting Dynamic Dialogue will give you the techniques and examples you need to impress your readers.

This book is a comprehensive guide to writing compelling dialogue that rings true. Each section is packed with advice and instruction from best-selling authors and instructors like Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Sims, Steven James, Deborah Halverson, James Scott Bell, Donald Maass, Cheryl St. John, and many others. They'll show you how to:
  • Bend the rules to create a specific effect
  • Understand the role of dialogue in reader engagement
  • Use dialect and jargon effectively
  • Give every character a believable, unique voice
  • Set the pace and tone
  • Reveal specific character background details
  • Generate tension and suspense
  • Utilize internal dialogue
Whether you're writing flash fiction, a short story, or a novel-length manuscript, Crafting Dynamic Dialogue will help you develop, write, and refine dialogue to keep your readers hooked.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright Page
  3. Foreword
  4. Introduction
    1. Start Crafting
  5. Part I: An Introduction to Dialogue
    1. Chapter 1: He Said, She Said
      1. The Process of Writing Dialogue
      2. Consistency of Tone and Character
      3. Breaking with Dialogue Convention
      4. Typical Dialogue Problems
      5. Summing Up
    2. Chapter 2: The Purpose of Dialogue
      1. Characterize/Reveal Motives
      2. Set the Mood in the Story
      3. Intensify the Story
      4. Create Tension and Suspense
      5. Speed Up Your Scenes
      6. Add Bits of Setting/Background
      7. Communicate the Theme
    3. Chapter 3: Rewriting the Rules
      1. Dialogue Should Stay on Topic
      2. Use Dialogue As You Would Actual Speech
      3. Opt for Said
      4. Avoid Long Speeches
      5. Be Grammatically Correct
      6. Show What the Characters Are Doing While They’re Talking
      7. Keep Characters’ Speech Consistent
    4. Chapter 4: "Say What?!" Quick Tips for Your Characters
    5. Chapter 5: Strengthen Your Dialogue
      1. Look Inside
      2. Don’t Get Intellectual
      3. Get Out the Scalpel
      4. Let Them Talk
  6. Part II: Crafting Great Dialogue
    1. Chapter 6: The Source of Great Dialogue
      1. The Great Paradox of Dialogue
      2. Starting to Listen
      3. How to Tune In and Get Good
    2. Chapter 7: Keys to Great Dialogue
      1. Great Dialogue Must Be Realistic
      2. Great Dialogue is Layered
      3. Great Dialogue is Right for the Character and the Moment
    3. Chapter 8: How to Craft Flawless Dialogue
      1. Mine for Gems
      2. Your Characters Must Wear it Well
      3. Jewels Need a Setting
      4. Cut Away the Extraneous
      5. Apply Pressure
      6. Appreciate Raw Beauty
      7. Don’t Over- (or Under-) Do It
  7. Part III: The Basics of Dialogue
    1. Chapter 9: Manner of Speech
      1. The Deuce You Say!
      2. Articulate Much?
    2. Chapter 10: Believable Dialogue
      1. Strong Dialogue is an Amalgam of Strong Craftwork
      2. Techniques for Crafting Authentic Dialogue
    3. Chapter 11: Handling Dialect & Jargon
      1. Region and Culture
      2. Ethnicity
      3. Social Class
      4. Historical Fiction
      5. Workplace Jargon
      6. Taking the Challenge
    4. Chapter 12: The Quirks of Using Dialogue in Science Fiction & Fantasy
      1. The Importance of Dialogue
      2. Writing Good Dialogue
  8. Part IV: Characters & Dialogue
    1. Chapter 13: What Dialogue Can Do For Your Story
      1. Don’t Worry About Perfection
      2. Don’t Let Dialogue Drive the Scene
      3. Don’t Use Your Characters to Preach
      4. Don’t Try to Be Cute or Clever
      5. Do Know Your Characters
      6. Do Write From Your Gut
      7. Do Pace Your Dialogue
      8. Do Search for the Essence
    2. Chapter 14: Make Your Characters Sound Real
      1. First Stress-Free Guideline to Stormwriting Dialogue
      2. Second Stress-Free Guideline to Stormwriting Dialogue
      3. Third Stress-Free Guideline to Stormwriting Dialogue
      4. Adverbs and Their Cruel Abuses
      5. How to Portray Emotion in Dialogue
      6. How to Give Each Character a Distinctive Voice
      7. Dialogue Markers
      8. Other Ways to Illustrate a Voice
      9. How to Give Your People Distinctive Verbal Markers
      10. Profanity and You
      11. Vocabulary as Social Marker
      12. The Engine Beneath the Words: Subtext
      13. Subtext in Action
      14. Phone Conversations
      15. Writing Complex Conversations the Easy Way
      16. The Golden Test for Dialogue
    3. Chapter 15: How Your Characters Speak
      1. Content: Substance is Style
      2. Diction Matters
      3. Grammar: You Sure Talk Good
      4. Length: He Just Goes On and On …
      5. A Caveat: It’s Not as Hard as it Looks
    4. Chapter 16: A Variety of Voices
      1. Word Choice
      2. Sensory Preferences
      3. Interests and Hobbies
      4. Cadence
  9. Part V: Dialogue Sets the Stage
    1. Chapter 17: Dialogue as a Means of Pacing
      1. Pacing Your Story
      2. Creating Momentum
      3. Speeding Up
      4. Slowing Down
      5. Gaining Control
      6. Is it Working?
    2. Chapter 18: Creating Active Dialogue
      1. Wielding Verbal Weapons
      2. Finding the Right Words
      3. Using the Action Tag
    3. Chapter 19: Using Dialogue to Reveal Story Setting & Background
      1. Know Your Characters
      2. Establishing Setting
      3. Too Much Too Soon
      4. It’s All in the Details
      5. Dialogue Description
      6. Stay in Voice
      7. Different Stories, Different Settings
      8. Weaving Narrative Setting into Dialogue
      9. Integrating Your Setting
    4. Chapter 20: Putting Dialogue to Work
      1. Supporting the Mood
      2. Controlling the Pace
      3. Going Deeper
    5. Chapter 21: Using Dialogue to Set the Mood & Facilitate the Emotion
      1. Setting the Mood
  10. Part VI: Dialogue Drives the Plot
    1. Chapter 22: Constructing Scenes with Dialogue
      1. Opening a Dialogue Scene
      2. Dialogue and Big Reveals
      3. Infusing Your Dialogue Scenes with Tension and Subtext
      4. Ending a Dialogue Scene
    2. Chapter 23: Tighten Your Scenes with Dialogue
    3. Chapter 24: Understanding Internal Dialogue
      1. Form and Format
      2. Achieving Multiple Effects
      3. Skill Builder
      4. Building Trust
    4. Chapter 25: Conflict in Dialogue
      1. 1. Orchestration
      2. 2. Subtext
      3. 3. Opposing Agendas
      4. 4. Sidestepping
      5. 5. Dialogue as Weapon
      6. 6. Parent-Adult-Child
    5. Chapter 26: Fight for Those Arguments
      1. Fights as Plot Devices
      2. Fight to Build Character
      3. Minor vs. Major Spats
      4. Fight Fair, Fight Foul
    6. Chapter 27: Dialogue & Suspense
      1. Spare Dialogue
      2. Stretched Dialogue
      3. The Unexpected
    7. Chapter 28: Talk It Out
  11. Permissions