3 Common Dialog Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Crafting great dialog takes work. And today I’d like to discuss 3 mistakes I see more often than any other.

Let’s look at definitions first.

A dialog tag (also known as attribution) tells the reader who is speaking, but also [Read more…]

Those Pesky Dialogue Tags

dialog 2Oh those pesky dialogue tags.





There’s a lot of conflicting information out there on what to use.

What’s a writer to do?

In the multitude of manuscripts I read, I see writers employ such things as “Sally smiled” or “Gerald laughed.” In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when the writer uses it as a substitute for “she said” and suddenly the character is constantly smiling or laughing.

Generally, a reader needs to have an identifier every 4-5 lines of dialogue in order to stay on track with who is speaking. So a tag isn’t required every time someone speaks (but I’ve seen writers do just that).

Let’s look at an alternative to the dialogue tag. [Read more…]

What Does the Publishing World Expect?

I first met author J.A. Marx this summer when I interviewed her about her debut book, Destiny Defied. During that interview she spoke about publishing industry standards, so I asked her come back and share more.

J.A. has made a special offer for my readers with her post today. See the details at the bottom of this post.

What Does the Publishing World Expect?
by J.A. Marx

J.A. Marx, author of Destiny Defied

J.A. Marx, author of Destiny Defied

Fiction writing is a form of art. It’s fluid. Like music and fine arts, it changes to express and reflect the shifting thought processes and beliefs of our culture.

This can madden or bless the writer, and I’ll sum up why in one word: Subjectivity

I entered Destiny Defied in a contest a few years back. Two judges’ responses:

  • “I have not seen this good of writing in years.” Score: 10
  • “There are too many characters, and I don’t know where this is taking place.” Score: 4

Madden the writer: Agents and editors are equally biased for their own reasons, so research them before submitting anything.

Bless the writer: Write from your passion. Learn ALL the rules for writing before you start breaking those rules.

The essential standards (mentioned below) required [Read more…]

Dialog: 5 Tips to Give Your Characters a Distinctive Voice

smiley balloon thm

Our voices are as unique as our physical appearance.
Photo by GregRon Photography

In real life we learn to recognize the voices of our friends and family.

But when you read the dialogue of your main characters, do you recognize their voices?

Too often our characters sound the same when they “speak.” So it’s important to give each a distinctive voice.

Consider these qualities about each character as you write dialog: [Read more…]

9 Aspects of Dialog, from Author Cecil Murphey


When I heard New York Times best-selling author Cecil Murphey (90 Minutes in Heaven) was doing a workshop for the writers group I belong to, I wasted no time in signing up.

How better to learn about writing than to be taught by a multiple, best-selling author? During the day, he taught on dialog. Here’s part of what he shared.

In all novels, dialog must accomplish 1 or more of the following tasks.


  1. Must have a purpose.
  2. Advances the story, furthers the action.
  3. Develops/shows the character.
  4. Shows emotional state of speaker.
  5. Conveys needed info succinctly.
  6. Brings immediacy to prose. Makes readers feel they are part of the scene. They “hear” the dialog with the character.
  7. Builds suspense and intensifies plot.
  8. Controls the pace of your story. It’s a speed control device.
  9. Can sum up: a character can explain in a few sentences to another person who wasn’t present during the action.

Thank you, Cec Murphey, for your permission to share these 9 aspects about dialog! Be sure to visit his Writer to Writer blog for more meaty advice on writing.

In the coming days, I’ll be diving deeper into writing dialog. In the meantime, how do you feel about dialog? Love it, hate it, dread it? Leave your comments below.


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