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

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Chapter 27

Dialogue & Suspense

James Scott Bell

Let’s focus in on ways dialogue can carry suspense and stretch tension. When you read the masters of dialogue—Ernest Hemingway, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker—you will find they do this all the time. Dialogue for them becomes another means of heightening the stakes. Remember, dialogue is an expression and extension of action. It is a physical act by a character in order to serve his purposes in a scene. With that in mind, you have several options in your toolbox.

Spare Dialogue

In chapter one of Lee Child’s Worth Dying For, Eldridge Tyler, a seemingly benign Nebraska grandfather, gets a call. He and his rifle might be needed. Immediately we’re hooked. A grandfather and his rifle? What for? Child ...

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