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

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Chapter 18

Creating Active Dialogue

James Scott Bell

Whoever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” was full of beans. I still remember the insults fired at me in the schoolyard. And I regret what my own words have done to some of my loved ones through the years. Words can hurt so bad they cling to your soul forever.

Thankfully, words also heal. And uplift. In short, words do things.

That’s important to keep in mind when writing dialogue. The words uttered by your characters are a form of action, used to help them get their way.

Speaking is a physical act, after all. John Howard Lawson, the respected—and later blacklisted—screenwriter, wrote that fictional speech should be viewed as a way for characters to expand ...

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