Sunday, June 15, 2014


Dialogue can be fun to write, like putting words into your characters mouth. I try to have my characters lay out the scene through dialogue whenever possible. It doesn’t always work in the first draft but when done right, it brings life to the scene.

Another purpose of dialogue is to give insight into a character without committing the dreaded act of “telling.” In the following excerpt from my novel, FOR EVERY ACTION, no words describe the detective’s effectiveness, yet certain of the character’s attributes stand out. As a reader, would you have confidence in the detective’s ability to handle his job?

The man wore a sports jacket of navy-flecked tweed, slightly frayed around the cuffs. Fine dust coated the tops of his shoes and he wore no hat. He removed a small notepad from an inner pocket of his jacket before glancing around the room.

“How may I help you?” Mr. Jaedelle asked.

“Sergeant Robertson, detective with the Homicide Division,” the man said, offering a business card. “I’m looking for a . . .” He stopped to consult his notepad. “I’m looking for Miss Bibeau. I understand she works here.”

“I’m Pepper Bibeau.” I stepped toward him with my hand outstretched.

After a slight hesitation, the detective reached over and gave me a firm handshake. But before he could say anything further, Gloria walked out of her office.

“Why are you here, detective?” she asked. “This law office doesn’t handle homicides.”

“I understand your concern, ma’am.” The detective removed a wallet from his inside breast pocket and displayed his Chicago police star.

Gloria made a show of examining the badge, then gave him a disapproving frown. He waited for her to step back before continuing.

“Unfortunately, it’s necessary for me to discuss details of a case with Miss Bibeau.”

Here are some links to other articles/book that deal with the use of dialogue to illustrate character traits:

How to show character through dialogue

Write Good Dialogue

Dynamic Dialogue: Letting Your Story Speak by William Bernhardt

If you have a moment, please check out my Pepper Bibeau mysteries on Amazon:


  1. Found you through #MondayBlogs! Thanks for this article. I am posting one upcoming on Write on Sisters about why, as a novelist, I started writing plays. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. There is no telling only showing in a play's dialogue. You move the action, reveal the characters through their words. I think my novels are sharper because of the plays I write. Thanks for a great post and links!

  2. Thank you for visiting, Sharon. I love your comment that writing plays makes your novels sharper. We were discussing poetry at a meeting yesterday and commenting that all forms of writing inform the other styles of writing so writing poetry is beneficial for writing a short story. So to paraphrase you: Write Write Write.

  3. Show don't tell! These are great tips! I think it helps us that we grew up watching TV and movies, where we instinctively get that dialogue is how a scene moves along, but it's important not to rely too much on narrative.


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