He said, she said, or what your characters are saying.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

16
votes
5answers
2k views

I'm getting tired of “he said” “she said” in dialogue; how do I get around it?

I get tired of "he said", "she said", "they replied". Is there a better, but still reasonable way, to indicate dialogue?
14
votes
6answers
3k views

Are modern authors still using colons and semicolons in dialogue?

Not sure if it's just my idea but I rarely see colons and semicolons in dialogue (especially in modern novels). Is it because they don't simulate normal speech? Because their use is more a semantic ...
12
votes
6answers
4k views

Dialog, just what's the best way to write it?

I've come across the following conventions: "What’s this for?" asked Jake. Sue replied, "None of your business." He shrugged his shoulders. "Well, it looks darned funny sitting here." "It’s ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

avoiding making all your characters sound the same

We surely all have little quirks to our speech. Like my daughter once criticized my writing for using the word "surely" too much. (See, I used it on this post.) So how do you keep all your characters ...
12
votes
2answers
843 views

Striking the balance between dialogue and narrative

I am participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. I have never in my life written so much of a single story. Although I am supposed to tell my inner editor to shut up this month, she is ...
11
votes
4answers
18k views

Must every piece of speech get its own paragraph?

I've had a few people read pieces of narrative writing I've done, and they seem to take issue with the fact that I sometimes put a piece of speech inline with the rest of a non-dialogue paragraph, ...
11
votes
4answers
440 views

How do you avoid the problem of all the characters in your story sounding the same?

There's a common flaw that I can easily detect in amateur writing, (and of course my own) which essentially boils down to all the characters "sounding the same", dialogue-wise anyway. Trying to ...
10
votes
6answers
1k views

alternatives to “he said” in dialog

I'm working on my first fiction story. And one mechanical thing I struggle with is how to identify the speakers in dialog without constantly saying "Bob said", "Mary said", etc. Any ideas? That is, I ...
9
votes
8answers
1k views

Dialogue writing practices?

First time novelist, long time writer here. I'm looking for creative writing exercises to help with my dialogue. Any ideas?
9
votes
7answers
1k views

How do I make an ESL character sound realistic?

I have to write an assignment in which there's an English character talking with a English as a Second Language (ESL) character. It is turning out really, really badly. I have a general idea of what ...
9
votes
9answers
2k views

How to write realistic female dialogue

I just can't make my dialogue sound like it's being said by a woman. As a friend of mine pointed out, "This woman talks just like you, Jack." I tried imitating the speech patterns of various females ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

How should dialog be formatted?

Is there any "official" rule that I should keep in mind when formatting character dialog? Line breaks, placement of quotes, mixing dialog with action descriptions etc. For example, I want to build a ...
9
votes
3answers
315 views

Conlang question

Diving (OK, dove) into conlanging for a novel I'm working on. The Conlang is atmospheric and allows for some subplot intrigue, but it's not absolutely essential to the story. I've got basic grammar, ...
9
votes
2answers
699 views

How does one include sign language in a dialogue?

If one character is using sign language and lip reading while the other is speaking normally, how do you represent the lines of the former? Quotations with "he signed" attribution or italics? E.g. ...
8
votes
6answers
367 views

How can I break up a lengthy explanation?

I have a setting in one of my stories where a character has to describe a very long series of events, giving the history of an object so that others know more about it. This not only provides the ...
8
votes
4answers
572 views

Can I use parenthesis in a conversation

I wrote a dialogue as follows: Then he said to her: "I told you I won't do that! (And I think you shouldn't either)". Somebody then asked me: How is a speech in a parenthesis? I'd like to know ...
8
votes
3answers
5k views

How to create varying, yet realistic, speech patterns

Different characters speak differently. If someone reads me a letter written by an immediate relative, I can tell right away who wrote it. I believe --and correct me if I'm wrong-- that giving each ...
8
votes
5answers
697 views

How does one present spoken dialogue as a secondary language to signed speech?

I was starting to leave a comment on this excellent question when I realized I had come up with a second question which was equally intriguing. If you're writing a story where 95% of the ...
7
votes
8answers
5k views

Is it permissible to write a short story with little or no dialogue?

We are writing a short story based on the antagonist in our novel, a sort of extended back story if you will. We are now three chapers in and still have not found the need to introduce any dialogue. ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

Why do writers use “said” instead of “asked” when someone asks a question?

I often see writers use "said" instead of "asked" when their character asks a question. e.g. From The Hobbit: “Where else should I be?” said the wizard Is it a mistake that hasn't been caught ...
7
votes
3answers
385 views

Is going 'off-topic' a sign of bad dialogue?

I always wondered if going off-topic in a dialogue is a bad or a normal thing. For example, let's say I'm writing a novel where the main theme is love and loss. Is it bad if the characters start ...
7
votes
5answers
748 views

Children's Dialogue

I'm having some trouble writing dialogue (and emotive responses) for children in the age bracket of roughly 10-13. They end up reading more like adults with limited vocabularies and simple grammar ...
7
votes
3answers
198 views

Should I write Internet slang as it is spoken or as it is written?

I'm writing a sci-fi novel where some of the characters are computer hackers. In some of the conversations they use the term "owned" which has a broad set of meanings in English. So I wonder if I ...
6
votes
9answers
390 views

Should dull dialogue be removed completely?

The following dialogue is from a novel I'm writing (first draft): "You're quiet tonight," Erin said to Benjamin, who seemed to be lost in thoughts. He looked up and took a sip of his drink. ...
6
votes
4answers
300 views

Is it always ok to use the verb “to say” after a question?

Does it sound strange to use the verb "to say" after a question? For example: "'Why is it called a memorial?' said Laura." If I were to have written this, I would have used "asked" instead. Am I ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

How to format dialogue with an embedded long monologue

I use the following formats for dialogues: dialogue dialogue - describing action (if any) dialogue - describing action (if any) - more dialogue (if any) There is a chapter in my book that is ...
6
votes
2answers
94 views

How to engage a child audience when my characters have no language?

Good afternoon all, I find myself in a predicament: I'm writing for 8-10 year-olds who, as I understand it, are very dependent upon dialogue to keep the story engaging. Unfortunately the protagonist ...
6
votes
6answers
340 views

Is it possible to write a novel completely devoid of dialogue?

I am in the process of writing a novel, and I'm just trying to get some ideas and thought on this. I am not sure yet if I want to completely remove all dialogue, but at this point I feel that dialogue ...
6
votes
4answers
586 views

How can I accurately represent young adult dialogue?

There was a recent question that caused quite a stir around here, not so much for the question itself, but more the purpose of the question. That aside, there was a valid question being asked, and it ...
5
votes
2answers
772 views

When Dialogue is used for more than one character?

When writing a dialogue for characters, say two or more who are speaking back and forth do you have to put who is speaking on every time you switch characters? Is it needed to put their name before ...
5
votes
4answers
252 views

Meretricious - A bit too fancy?

I have a character that I want to sound very intelligent, well educated, someone who always uses the correct words with no unnecessary filler. I have found the word 'meretricious' which has the ...
5
votes
5answers
507 views

How to make a debate/discussion between characters less dry?

I've asked questions in the past about dialogue and I've read some questions about balancing dialogue with plot, however I have discovered yet another corner case in my writing. In my story Cured, the ...
5
votes
3answers
773 views

How to write a character who uses a lot of smalltalk without boring the reader?

Since a lot of what they say is by definition irrelevant to the plot should I just skim over it? I'm worried this might make their manner unclear to the reader and I don't want their impression of ...
5
votes
3answers
273 views

How to plan dialog and keep it on track?

When I'm writing a plotline, it often works out that I know two characters will be meeting each other in a particular scene, and that they will converse. And I oftentimes know the central idea of what ...
5
votes
4answers
312 views

What is the Priority in an Action/Adventure Novel: Dialogues or Conflict?

I am currently working on a novel and I was having some trouble finding the best solution for this question. I understand that both dialogues and conflicts are needed in a good proportion to cook a ...
5
votes
2answers
183 views

How do you reference pop culture in a dialogue without proper attribution?

I'm not sure exactly how to ask this question in a vacuum so I'll give an example first: Many people are familiar with the Mitch Hedberg joke about an escalator being "temporarily stairs" rather than ...
5
votes
2answers
284 views

Do the characters in the following dialogue sound the same?

The following unedited dialogue is from a novel I'm writing (which is based on a short story I wrote a while ago): "I hope it's not an inappropriate question," Icaro said, after hesitating for a ...
5
votes
3answers
494 views

Background speech with foreground dialogue

A few days ago, I stumbled upon an issue of the type; meaning I had two characters talking between themselves and another character talking in the background; actually delivering a speech. What the ...
5
votes
1answer
136 views

How can I add emphasis in an internal dialogue, given that I am already using italics for character thoughts?

In a novel I am currently writing, characters frequently express thoughts. Following the advice I found here, which states: "Never use quotation marks for thoughts, even if those thoughts are inner ...
5
votes
2answers
185 views

Script Writing as it pertains to TV and Radio lines

If a Radio or TV needs to be audible. How is that written in a Script? Is it written like the characters, or is written in the description in parentheses?
5
votes
2answers
179 views

Changing the way one addresses a character in a dialogue to create variation

I wrote the following dialogue: After a moment, Eri's mother appeared from the kitchen, carrying a tray with miso soup. Eri was startled by the amount of food. Her parents were definitely ...
5
votes
2answers
364 views

Shouting in a question

How do I express shouting in a question? In a non-question sentence, I just put an exclamation mark at the end and/or use words like "shouted"/"yelled"/etc in the "said" tag and it feels fine. But ...
4
votes
3answers
350 views

Deciding whether to use a dialogue tag or an action tag in a dialogue

Example: "I'm not saying you don't know what you are talking about," he said, then looked at her and shrugged his shoulders. "But I don't know what you are talking about." "I'm not saying ...
4
votes
3answers
427 views

Starting a novel with internal dialogue?

What are your thoughts about having the first sentence in a novel be internal dialogue? What are the potential problems this could raise? what are the benefits? By internal dialogue i mean something ...
4
votes
5answers
680 views

How to balance for readers who are not technologically literate

My story features two software developers who discuss computer-based things in the first chapter. It's not a significant part of the story, but it helps to establish who the characters are and what ...
4
votes
5answers
290 views

Putting a dialogue a tag before a quote

Sometimes I see stuff like this: X said, "..." "..." X did this, and then said, "..." Is it used to just vary sentence structure? Or to make dialogue more readable or smoother in certain ...
4
votes
3answers
299 views

How to write a conversation

Conversation is the thing I have most difficulties with while writing stories. How do I write a conversation so it will be clear who said what, and in a way that's not like a court transcript? Should ...
4
votes
3answers
170 views

Is it okay to mention a person's nationality and accent only once or twice in a story?

For example, if you have a guy whos is an Indian (from India), and you say something like, Sukant answered in his Northern Bhojpuri accent, "Yes. It is indeed true. Many people come into my store ...
4
votes
2answers
193 views

In a dialogue, how do you write that a character says a letter?

Since I don't know how to make the title less ambiguous, I will explain myself with examples. Example 1: imagine that in a dialogue between two mathematicians, one reads aloud the following sentence ...
4
votes
2answers
390 views

What are good examples of backstory in natural dialogue?

Does anyone have good examples from modern day fiction where backstory is given to the reader in a "good" way? I'm trying to get a feel for what sounds natural in writing. In real life there are ...