Tuesday, June 6, 2023

How To Keep the Dialog You Write Fresh

by PeggySue Wells @PeggySueWells

There is an art to writing dialog that takes place between multiple characters, yet the topic remains the same. Different conversations, same subject matter. How can you discuss a person, incident, or event multiple times without repeating facts?

Once your reader already knows something, resist being tedious by repeating that same information. When another character must be informed of the news already revealed, share the information in a way that 
  • does not repeat what the reader knows 
  • does give the reader new information 

For instance, in Chasing Sunrise the reader knows from a previous chapter that Michael has been on an assignment that went sideways. To keep from boring the reader into a coma, and to increase suspense, each time this incident is spoken about, characters must talk about it with fresh information.

Michael barged into his commanding officer’s office. Corbin waved him to a chair, but Michael walked straight to the large desk and tossed his parajumper insignia across the dark wood surface. “You used me.” 

Corbin calmly regarded Michael. “I heard there was an incident on your last assignment.”

“I didn’t become one of America’s fighting elite to kill women.”

“My information was sketchy, Michael. We were ordered to protect the patient.”

Michael waved a hand at the television on a low coffee table. Though presently muted, the screen showed Bennett Taylor wiping his eye. “The patient was a general’s wife who was mysteriously hospitalized.”

“Don’t you watch the news? Taylor’s a senator now.” Corbin crossed the room and closed the office door. “A general’s wife or a senator’s wife should receive extra protection.” 

“Mr. God-and-Country barred all visitors and ordered life support withheld. That’s not protection. It’s a death sentence.”

Corbin returned to his desk. “But you did apprehend someone who was making an attempt on the patient.”

“I apprehended her father, Corbin. Her father was attempting to give water to his only child.” 

Corbin indicated the chair again. “Sit down, Northington.”


“I’ll look into things, Michael.”

“Don’t bother. She died.” 

“Take some time off.” Corbin picked up the insignia and held it out for Michael. “Cool down.” The metal flash in Corbin’s hand was the image of an angel enfolding the world in its wings. 

“I’m done.” Michael turned and walked away. He had his hand on the doorknob when Corbin spoke again.

“Did you know her?”

Michael stopped, pausing before he answered. “Yeah, I knew her.” 

Of course, there also has to be a conversation about what is going to happen next with Michael’s partner. How can the writer provide fresh insights about the same topic to the person closest to our protagonist and the one who was there when it all happened?

Bryce casually slung an arm across the back of his chair and looked pointedly toward the discarded want ads. “So, battle buddy, what’s the plan?” 

“I’m making this up as I go.” 

“This from the guy who was on a fast track to his goals when he was still in diapers.” Bryce signaled the waitress and turned his attention back to Michael. “You were prepubescent when you joined the Civil Air Patrol.”

“I was fourteen and you weren’t.”

“Being the older, more mature member of this dynamic duo, I was sixteen.” Bryce folded his sunglasses into his shirt pocket. “And driving myself to meetings while your mom dropped you off in that stylish station wagon.”

Remembering, Michael smirked. “You were driving that rust-fringed, dilapidated pick-up truck older than Methuselah.”

“Don’t poke fun at that ride, Mikey,” Bryce warned. “It got us to a lot of great places.”

“Training weekends, ground team practice, survival school, flight school…”

“You made it through the toughest training regimen in the world.” Bryce leaned forward on the table. “Parajumper is all you’ve wanted to be since you were sixteen. It’s what you’ve been for ten years.”

Studying his mug, Michael nodded.

“Come back, partner.”

Michael spun his glass in slow circles, the condensation leaving wet rings on the table. “I can’t.” 

Bryce sighed. “This is about the general’s wife.”

“What’s our prime directive, Bryce?”

“So that others may live.”

“Two people have done something for me in my life.” Michael met his gaze. “One of them was Verity. They used me to kill her. I can’t work for people like that.”

When writing dialog, avoid repeating facts the reader already knows. Instead, consider how you can drip fresh information into each conversation.


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Tropical island votary and history buff, PeggySue Wells parasails, skydives, snorkels, scuba dives, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. Writing from the 100-Acre Wood in Indiana, Wells is the bestselling author of thirty books including The Slave Across the Street, Slavery in the Land of the Free, Bonding With Your Child Through Boundaries, Homeless for the Holidays, Chasing Sunrise, and The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make. Founder of SingleMomCircle.com, PeggySue is named for the Buddy Holly song with the great drumbeat. At school author visits, she teaches students the secrets to writing and speaks at events and conferences. Connect with her at www.PeggySueWells.com, on Facebook at PeggySue Wells, and LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/peggysuewells

Featured Image: Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

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