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Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel Revised and Expanded Edition, 2nd Edition by Sara Paretsky, Hallie Ephron

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Chapter 16

Writing Dialogue

“Dialogue should be allowed to stand alone, pure and simple. Except when it shouldn’t.”

—Lawrence Block, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit

Most authors have an Achilles’ heel, some aspect of their writing that they need to improve. Mine is dialogue. I have to work to make each character’s dialogue feel authentic, individual, and natural.

This may be related to the fact that I can never remember anyone’s exact words in real life. After a party, for example, ask me what was on the walls of the host’s home, what people were wearing, what food was served, and I can give you chapter and verse. But ask me what anyone said, and I can only paraphrase.

Paraphrasing isn’t dialogue. If you paraphrase what your characters say, every ...

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