Dialogue can make or break a story so if you struggle to put the perfect words into your characters’ mouths, the focus of this month’s Writer’s Room is just for you.

So what exactly does dialogue do for a story? I like to think of it as somewhat of its workhorse.

It can reveal character. Sometimes it’s the way they say something or the words they use that distinguishes them from other characters in a story.

It can reveal something about the plot. Maybe one character tells another something that you didn’t know before or even see coming aka, a cliffhanger.

It can speed up pacing. If you have fast pacing, you can cut the dialogue and slow things down a little. On the other hand, if your pacing is putting readers to sleep, then adding some dialogue is a great way to speed things up.

It can move the plot forward by letting the reader know something they didn’t know before they read it and therefore advances the storyline.

It can be a great way to squeeze in some information about the story or a character without it coming across as an information dump. For example, by the way did you find out whose car that was parked outside your house all week?

In fact, done right, dialogue should be doing at least one or more of the above and if it isn’t that tweak it or even cut it.

I have to admit I love writing dialogue and I’ve been told it’s one of my strengths but if it isn’t yours there are some ways to practice-


I was an eavesdropper long before I was a writer and it’s a great way to hear how people actually talk. Some use certain words in the majority of their sentences. Some people make noises with their tongues. Some people talk fast, some slow, some throw in the odd curse word or two.

Practice writing just dialogue for ten minutes every day before you begin working on your story. Take two of your characters and start up an imaginary conversation between them.

Read screenplays. A scriptwriter’s greatest strength is his or her ability to write top notch dialogue, if they can’t pull that off then there’s basically no story. Pick up a screenplay or two and learn from the masters.

Do you have a writing question you’d like answered or what to see a specific topic covered in the Writer’s Room? Leave a comment and let me know.

Susan Palmquist is the author of 100 plus books including writing instruction, lifestyle, romances and mysteries. Under her pen name, Vanessa Devereaux, she writes erotic romances and erotica.

Since 2010 she’s been tutoring aspiring authors and offering workshops through various chapters of Romance Writers of America. She recently launched a mentoring/coaching service for both aspiring and established writers. You can learn more about Susan and her work at www.susanpalmquist.com www.vanessadevereaux.com and her writing blog at www.thiswriterslife.com and check out her self- paced writing classes at https://writersroom.zenler.com/

Contact Susan about her coaching/mentoring service at susanpalm2010@gmail.com ,

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