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Crafting Dynamic Dialogue by Cheryl St. John, Writer's Digest Writer's Digest Editors

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Chapter 3

Rewriting the Rules

Steven James

Most of us have heard the typical advice about writing dialogue—make sure your characters don’t all sound the same, include only what’s essential, opt for the word said over other dialogue tags, and so on.

While these blanket suggestions can get you headed in the right direction, they don’t take into account the subtleties of subtext, characterization, digressions, placement of speaker attributions, and the potentially detrimental effect of “proper” punctuation.

So, let’s delve into the well-intentioned advice you’ll most commonly hear, and what you need to know instead.

Dialogue Should Stay on Topic

In real life we talk in spurts, in jumbles, in bursts and wipeouts and mumbles and murmurs and grunts ...

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