Tips for Dialogue Development -Part I

Dr. Maxine Thompson

New writers tend to go on for pages of narrative, and think they are
writing fiction. Fiction tends to be a healthy balance of dialogue and narrative.
Try not to go on longer than three pages without dialogue, unless the literary
device is one that is more internal monologue.

Write in direct, visual scenes, as if you were writing a movie. Modern readers are more visual
and are used to seeing stories acted out on TV or movies. Keep this in mind.

What are the dialogue rules? “I never got any dialogue rules!” you might say. Well, here are

Use dialogue to describe motives. “Is she dead yet?” tells a lot about the
speaker, particularly when the son is the first to arrive on his rich dead mother’s murder
scene. Practice writing how people give themselves away. (Make use of
Freudian slips.)

Use adversarial, confrontational, interrogatory and oblique dialogue to
move a story. For example: The Boss, “If you‘re late one more time, you’re fired.”
The Employee: “What do you mean, ‘I’m fired?’”

Use dialogue to shape characters. For example, a Black professor speaks differently than a

Some rules for dialogue.

Do not go on longer than 3-4 sentences in dialogue, unless it is a confrontational passage of dialogue. Otherwise, it sounds like a monologue or―speechifying.

Consider voice and point of view, tone and style, when you write dialogue.

Write in a consistent way that the character speaks.

Many new writers will place a number of verbal exchanges of dialogue
in one paragraph. Each time a new speaker says something, you should start a new paragraph.
Read fiction books to see how paragraphs are set up.

Try not to go on longer than 3 sentences of dialogue before the other person

Do not always have your character speak in full sentences. Example: “What is your name?”

Or when two people who already know each other talk, they don’t address each other by name.

A big key point for pacing is not to let a speaker go on for more than three sentences without breaking it up with gestures, body language, interruptions or interaction from the other characters.

Also have people speak obliquely, not answer directly, break off and falter in
their speech, saying one thing and meaning another.

Don’t have your characters make small talk. In real life, we may chit
chat about the weather and the baby‘s new tooth or first step. In fiction,
unless those things happen to be important to the story—leave them
out and cut to the chase. Small talk is dull in real life. It’s even more
boring in fiction. In fact, it’s deadly, and kills your book.

Break up dialogue with action. People don’t simply stand face to-face
and talk. In the next article, learn different ways to use dialogue.

About the author: Dr. Maxine Thompson is a novelist, poet, Internet Radio Show Host, literary agent, editor, and ghostwriter. She is the author of novels, The Ebony Tree, Hostage of Lies, LA Blues trilogy, Short Story Collection, A Place Called Home, 5 Nonfiction Books, et. al.

What Agents Look For in A Writer’s Works

(This is an article I wrote three years, but I think it still remains the same.)

Like many small business owners, I have to multi-task, so as a literary agent, I recently had this insight while at the Pacific Ocean. When I wear my agent cap, the stories that I love the most, are the ones which hold my attention. Simple as that. Nothing esoteric. The same way these stories hold my attention, they tend to hold an editor at a large publishing house’s attention. Ergo, these are the manuscripts which get the book deals.

A writer’s work has to catch my attention in the first sentence, then the second, then the first page, or the next 5-10 pages. I don’t care how many projects I have in the hop, I should be able to sit down, block out the other things pressing, and read your book with interest. That’s a compelling read. Even if I can’t finish it, I should be drawn to want to come back to find out what happened.

I’m an agent who happens to be a writer, too. This is another epiphany I had while at the ocean. As writers, we have to write as if we are writing for people with short attention spans. A book has to be very compelling to keep this type of person’s attention, and I think a lot of people suffer from a little of this syndrome now. Why?

Because today, many people are on information overload. People tend to have short attention spans. We can get information on Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, Squido, millions of websites,, emails, teleseminars, ipods, webinars, ezines, internet radio interviews, Youtube. The list goes on.

People are busy, raising families, working jobs, or running businesses. They are caught up in the fast-pace of life that is the New Millennium. As a result, people tend to want instant gratification. So I take this into consideration when I read a client’s work.

What are some of the things agents look for?

Personally, I look for writers of fiction who have more than one book in them. Preferably, these writers have a number of stories to tell, and they can make a full-time career out of their writing. I’d like to see writers whose books can be translated to the silver screen one day.

Where should you begin? A good query letter is a place to begin. You can find out how to write them in the Literary Market Place, or The Writer’s Market.

A serious writer will take time to visit the guidelines when submitting to an agency. Do not send attachments unless the agency asks for it. Often the writers do not follow the guidelines, and this is a turn off to an agent.

If someone asks you for a synopsis, a logline for a screen play, or your novel’s first 3 chapters, then make sure this is what you provide—not your self-published book with the cover torn off. If you have already self-published, send in the manuscript version to the agent.

These are some tips for writers:

Make sure there are no typos in your query letter, your synopsis or your manuscript. It not only discredits your work, it gives an impression that you don’t respect the craft of writing.

Have your work edited and proofread before submitting to an agent. Sometimes, as writers, we only get one shot at an opportunity. Be prepared if you want to be successful.

Follow the submission guidelines of a literary agency. For example, if the guidelines say they do not accept novellas, do not send novellas. Wait for your release letter, which says that you are the writer of said material.

Send a query letter and a screenplay in the proper format. Use Final Draft or other screenwriting software.

If you want to be a screenwriter, study the craft.

As a novelist, you should develop a good writing style and have an interesting flair for words. This is one reason why urban fiction is so popular. It is written in hip hop/urban vernacular, which has a very authentic feel and it reflects the world as seen by the characters who have lived the street life.

As a writer, you should develop a strong voice. Your particular world view should shine through your writing.

Create a page turner by studying the craft of fiction writing, (which includes the elements of fiction, such as pacing, revising, creating memorable characters, among other techniques.) You can read books, take classes, or join critique groups.

Write about exciting characters who take action. Do not use stereotypical characters. Write against character type. Don’t use your typical diva, typical tomboy, typical playboy.

Use a compelling storyline. Stories are not about the character’s ordinary day or routine. The best stories are about disruption of the norm, and how the characters coped with the change. Good stories are about characters who go through a journey, which change their lives, for better or worse, by the end of the story. This is your character arc.

These are some things you can learn to do which will help improve your writing.

Learn how to set up a scene, then pay it off. Raise a story question and make sure you answer it by the end of the story.

Learn how to write dialogue which sings. This will really help with screenwriting.

Learn how to use descriptive words, vigorous verbs, and evoke emotions through the five senses. Learn how to make a novel move like a movie, with visuals, settings, showing vs. telling, and providing a life lesson.

Learn how to develop your characters so that they feel real and like someone a reader will spend 300 pages with. Give your characters backstory, an agenda, and conflicted desires.

Learn how to make a story flow, through different techniques, such as Joseph Campbell’s, “The Hero’s Journey.”

In conclusion, writing a fictional story is work. But who ever said anything worth having would be easy? Learn to be the best writer you can become, and an agent will be glad to represent and negotiate a decent book deal for your work.

For your website needs, contact SG Creations at Stupid Site.Website, graphics, promotional material, etc :D