Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dialog/Call for Submissions

In most fictional books, characters talk with each other. The ability to speak makes us human and speech in fiction helps to bring the characters alive, to make them fully developed. Dialog is usually introduced early and each character should have a distinctive manner of speaking. Dialog must be interesting, reflect the character, and carry the plot forward. That’s easier said than done. Here are some key points for writing dialog that will appeal to readers.

1. Avoid accents. Figuring out what the character is saying slows down the story and distracts the reader. If accents are used sentence after sentence, reading is like decoding a message. A word or two is enough to give the reader a sense of the accent. Greater usage makes reading difficult and the reader will likely abandon the story.

2. Listen to how people talk. Words and phrases can identify a region or a particular profession. A teacher would not use the same words as a student in describing a plant or animal. As we vary the style of speech, dialog tags can be removed in a lengthy discussion between two characters.

“Jill, how do you remove this label?” asked Jack.
“What label? Jill turned to look at Jack.
“This label on the ransom note.”

The reader can follow who is speaking without “said Jack” attached to the piece of dialog. And “said Jill” can be eliminated by placing Jane in action following dialog.

3. Reveal portions of the plot through dialog. Maybe the character could hint about a surprise event or threaten harm. This not only develops the character but makes the surprise or threat more real when it is spoken rather than revealed through narrative. The suspense value is heightened.

Next week, I’ll introduce more tips for writing dialog.

Call for submissions for young writers:
Kentucky State Poetry Society STUDENT POETRY CONTESTS -- K thru 12 -- No entry fees -- Cash Prizes. This is a great way to get students interested in poetry.
Deadline: March 1
Details at

Call for submissions for adult writers:
The Flatt Prize for Literature welcomes submissions of short stories (no longer than 3,000 words). “The theme for the short story is to be inspired by the title ‘INTERRUPTED’.” $1,000 prize. No entry fee. Deadline: February 29, 2012.
Details at

Check out more contests on my blog:

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