Who You Tellin’?

Good dialogue is such an important part of story telling, and personally, I prefer it to exposition.  It can be used to fill in all sorts of important details about a plot or a character, and if it is done right, it can be magical.  As a writer, I understand this, and yet, I suck at writing dialogue.  Terribly.  It is the one part of the whole writing process that intimidates me the most.  I know what makes good dialogue, and I know what it should sound like, but I struggle with it painfully.  Maybe it’s because my own articulation skills are about as suave as Bridget Jones’, but since writing comes much easier to me than speaking, it vexes me to no end that I have such a hard time with it.


I mean, when I’m hanging with my girls and shooting the shit, I have no problem speaking because I’m relaxed and in my element, and whether I am venting about She Who Can Not Be Named, or gushing about how fucking hot Rick from The Walking Dead looks now that he’s shaved off that god-awful beard, I can carry on a conversation like a grown woman with a fairly decent understanding of the English language.  So why can’t I write one?

My dialogue usually looks like this:

“I love you,” she said.

“I know,” he replied.

Now, while that was great spoken dialogue in Star Wars*, it’s excruciatingly boring when reading.


But this:

“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”**

Ugh!  Why can’t I write like that!  You can’t even reply to that with an “I know.”  Those are the kind of words that could actually end a conversation, because if someone said that to me, I would probably be looking at him like a complete dolt with my mouth agape.  So maybe I picked a bad example here, but are you at least feeling my pain here?


I would be less intimidated by this whole dialogue thing if my characters could just speak to each other the way they spoke to me.  My characters are great at talking to me and telling me where they want to go and what they want to do in the story.  They have no problem opening up to me and telling me their deepest secrets, nor do they hesitate to let me know I need to steer the story in a different direction to accommodate their life in someway.  But they can not speak to each other without sounding like simplistic, boring automatons with no personality.  They know what they want to say to each other, they just can’t say it the way they want to.


I try not to be too hard on myself, and I even ask for help if I need it.  I just hope that as I stumble along my path to reach my goal of New York Times Best Seller, the art of dialogue will somehow click so I can worry about more important things like how to ask for a cameo role if my book is ever made into a movie.

* More precisely from The Empire Strikes Back.

** Quote is from John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars.


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