Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dialogue

Dialogue is crucial in many kinds of writing. What I see sometimes in my critique partners' writing (and mine, if I'm honest) is dialogue that doesn't go anywhere. For example, "Hi, how's it going?" "Good, how's it going with you?" "Good. Thanks. So, what'cha up to?" "Oh, you know..."
Ugh. Don't do this. Dialogue needs to serve a purpose like all other writing; it should further the plot or build character or similar. Dialogue needs to sound like real people talking--but better.

As an example of good dialogue, here's an excerpt from Aaron Sorkin's Academy Award-winning script for "The Social Network":

--I have to study.

You don't have to study. You don't have to study. Let's just talk.

I can't.


Because it's exhausting. Dating you is like dating a stairmaster.

It's difficult to get the full flavor of the movie (and dialogue) in just a few lines, but I think you get the idea.
For the rest of us mere mortals, how can we track down dialogue that's not working? Reading it aloud can really help.

One of my writer friends wrote a good blog entry on dialogue a while back: Make or Break Dialogue. Ooh, I see he has another: Great Dialogue. And there's one from me, too: on inconsistent dialogue. Check 'em out!

Good luck with your dialogue!


  1. Excellent advice. I'm working on writing my first script and I keep falling into the mundane dialog. Someday I'll sort it out.

  2. I read EVERYTHING aloud. It is the most indispensible piece of advice I ever got and I ALWAYS do it. This piece of dialogue is great but am I the only person who thought the movie sucked?

  3. Great post. Dialogue is one of thoe big topics in writing. Check out my blog queenofenglish for info on a workshop in dialogue I'm giving this month.
    Hope that's okay to say.

    MM the Queen of English

  4. Good stuff. Aaron Sorkin is the master of dialogue.