Common Writing Pitfalls #3 Dialogue: Part Two

Common Writing Pitfalls Series

Back to the Common Writing Pitfalls series. 

This is Part Two of an earlier post on dialogue.

Common Writing Pitfalls #3 Dialogue Part One

Dialogue: Part Two

  1. Don’t use REAL dialogue.

 Real everyday dialogue is boring. When you see someone outside on the sidewalk, you make small talk.

“Hey, how are you?”

“Fine, how are you?

“Great. Where are you going?”

“Just around the block.”

But no one wants to read small talk. Unless it has a major plot purpose—like behind your people, a building is falling to the ground and they are missing the action because they live in a giant plastic bubble.

Cut every word that you don’t need and be creative with the words you choose to use. Witty, fun dialogue keeps readers hooked.

2.      Watch out for overuse of names.

How many times in real life do we say a person’s name in conversation? Not many. So check for that when you edit. The exception to this comes when your character does this with everyone because it’s a personality trait he carries throughout the book.

“Hey, Susan, how are you?”

“Fine, Jill, how are you?

“I’m great, Susan. Where are you going?”

“Just around the block, Jill. Care to join me?”

3.      Use dialogue to give information and move the story forward.

Be careful not to give an information dump or overload. Share your secrets lightly and scatter them throughout the book.

Don’t give obvious information.

4.      Use dialogue to show us more about the personality of your characters

Each of your characters will speak differently. The words or phrases they use can show us something about their personality. Is your character’s speech formal, choppy, snarky, polite, stilted, humorous, sarcastic. What words do they use? One person may describe a movie as great and another as a masterpiece of cinema.

Dialogue tags come in here, too. Does your character wave her arms when she talks? Stand still? Or shift her feet? Make eye contact? Avoid eye contact?

5.      What your characters don’t say can be just as crucial as what they do say.

What if your character doesn’t answer a question? Or provide information? Maybe your character changes the subject or deflects. Silence or omission of information by his carefully chosen words can be just as telling as actual information giving dialogue.








  1. Great post! After years of critiquing works, dialogue seems to be one of the more complicated areas of writing people have problems with. I still have issues sometimes with choosing words that are age appropriate for my characters. I found over the years that reading (anything and everything), writing, and critiquing makes it easier to recognize your own flaws. Practice makes perfect.

  2. You’ve listed some wonderful guidelines! Regarding #4, I have a hero in my current WIP who picks up objects and fiddles with them while he talks. It bugs my heroine- ha!

    • I like that! :-) My main character has mild OCD and tends to count in his head for no reason and has to do things in a certain order. he’s also picky about foods not touching each other on the plate. That one is the big one that is irritating to his companions. :)

      • I love those! I need to think about some really annoying thing my guy does because my girl’s already mad at him :)

    • Love that! Irritating is so great for tension!

  3. Dropping by from your campaign group to say hello. I loved reading the ‘Pitfalls’ articles and have bookmarked them. Will be back for sure, well done Lori :)

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