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How to Write Dialogue that Isn’t a Version of You

November 8, 2013

There are certain words and phrases to which I have an aversion: lube, fistula– ligature—which seems like it wants to be “signature” only it’s sneaking around with a rope.

I don’t like ladies, and even worse, gals—as in, “are you gals ready to order?” I’m fascinated by the utterly bizarre phrase, “want to come with?” I can’t stop waiting for the question to be properly finished, as in “want to come with us, or me?  Same goes for the equally bizarre, “I graduated college,” as if I graduated “from college” is just too much effort. 

Another term that creeps me out is “rising” as in, “he’s a rising junior.” Kind of inflated, don’t you think? It’s not that big of an achievement to go from one grade to another. I mean, it’s kind of expected.  Whatever happened to “I’m going into 12th grade?”

One of the most difficult things a writer has to do is to learn to write dialogue that is unique to each character. Even seasoned writers may have many of their characters sounding much the same—as versions of themselves.

Try this: make a list of words you don’t like, phrases that annoy you, things that sound cheap, or snooty, or insincere and once you have a nice foundation, let them start coming from a character’s mouth. Who is this person? What does he want and what will he do to get it?



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