Dialogue Advice from Author Shelby Patrick

****Blog Owner Note: The content following is solely the content and opinion of Shelby Patrick alone, and not that of blog owner Jennifer Gladen***

I Have Spoken…

By Shelby Patrick

One of the many elements to writing fiction is to use good dialogue. I have been told countless times, by my editor and other publishing professionals, that my characters’ dialogue is pretty good. You can’t have an enticing story if the cast can’t even produce two sentences that sound natural and exciting. Writing dialogue is not the same as talking to another person. For instance, when you meet someone, this might be how it goes: “Hello, how are you? I’m not doing too bad myself. How is the family? How was school…work…etc.?”

Hmm, a bit tedious and boring, if you are reading that, unless it somehow enhances the storyline or its speakers. If it doesn’t, there’s no place for dialogue like that in your piece of fiction. Keep it snappy and enlightening. You want to keep the reader engaged, not turn them away or make them nod off in the middle of your chapter.

So how do you go about keeping readers involved with your characters when they speak?

• Create a memorable character by allowing him/her to use witty banter – come-ons, put downs, sarcasm, etc. Example from my own book, When Angels Sing: :”Following me down here was a stupid idea, Jen. Do you realize I could lock the door and and no one would ever know? If you disappeared now, they would just go out looking for your kidnapper . . . again.”

• Make sure the speaker is always clear; don’t frustrate your reader so that they aren’t even sure who is talking. Find some way to personalize the dialogue so there is no confusion. For example: The bouncer reached for Susan’s arm but Luke slapped him. “Shame on you, Jacques, no one touches my girl but me.”

• Sometimes thoughts or speech patterns get interrupted. Don’t be afraid to leave someone’s dialogue hanging, such as: “Zack, I don’t know how to tell you this…” Anna shifted her feet and looked down at the floor.

• Give at least one of your characters a good sense of humor and show it in his words.

• Descriptions and feelings can sometimes be conveyed through dialogue with other characters.

• Don’t make all your characters sound the same. One may speak with a stutter or a foreign accent, sound more educated than the rest, or show more emotion.

• Don’t tell us how a character feels. Instead, show us through his choice of words. For example, instead of saying “I’m angry! How could you do that?” Try something like: “ That is the stupidest thing I have ever seen you do.”
One good rule of thumb here. Characters rarely ever say what they feel. When is the last time you read a romance and the man and woman declared their love right away, or a thriller when the killer is revealed through his dialogue in the first chapter? You have to keep the reader guessing and entertained. They may know what the characters are thinking, but chances are the other characters in the story won’t, so don’t push the dialogue too fast and ruin any suspense building up.

Good luck!


Shelby has self-published two creative writing exercise books, Dark Recesses of the Mind and Forbidden Knowledge, a short horror and science fiction collection entitled The Fear Within, and a supernatural thriller, When Angels Sing.

WHEN ANGELS SING came out in December 2010. The main male character, Blaze Kerrigan, is a typical young guy but with one peculiar problem – he has a psychic link to a serial killer. So when Jenna Michaels shows up at his door unannounced and bears an uncanny resemblance to his dead fiancée, it’s Blaze’s job to keep her safe, especially when the body count starts to rise.

To see the trailer for WHEN ANGELS SING, please visit:


All of Shelby’s titles can be purchased at amazon.com.

Shelby Patrick

** Find Shelby Patrick on Twitter (@shelbypatrick) or Facebook **


  1. Karen Cioffi says:

    Shelby, great tips for creating effective dialogue. It does become challenging to write a tight and engaging story while watching for all the no-nos and must-dos.Thanks for sharing.Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing


  2. Interesting article with wonderful tips. Thanks!Regards,Donna Children’s AuthorWrite What Inspires You Blog The Golden Pathway Story book Blog


  3. SP says:

    Thanks, Jennifer, for hosting me today.


  4. kathy stemke says:

    Good tips on writing dialogue. Dialogue often sets the mood and tone of the story too.


  5. Dallas says:

    What helpful tips! I think dialogue is something that can really make or break a story. If it strikes the reader as \”off,\” it can ruin the whole mood and bring the reader out of the world completely. Thanks for the advice for how writers can ensure that does not happen!


  6. Arlee Bird says:

    Excellent suggestions! I like to hear the conversations in my head and have them sound natural when they are read aloud.LeeTossing It Out


  7. Yes, Shelby's tips are great and will help us keep our dialogue lively!


  8. it is neat to get tips.awesome job.see your post at bluebell tomorrow.cheers.


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