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Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue

(Write Great Fiction)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,023 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Craft Compelling Dialogue

When should your character talk, what should (or shouldn't) he say, and when should he say it? How do you know when dialogue—or the lack thereof—is dragging down your scene? How do you fix character who speaks with the laconic wit of the Terminator?

Write Great Fiction: Dialogue by successful author and instructor Gloria Kempton has the answers to a
...more
Paperback, First Edition, 232 pages
Published October 26th 2004 by Writer's Digest Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,023 ratings  ·  71 reviews


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John
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bailed
Every time I read one of these Writer's Digest technique books, I find a passage that really sticks in my craw. Here, it's

"Do you remember those novels teachers made us read in high school?

Great Expectations. Madame Bovary. Lord of the Flies. Page after page of blocks of text. Long passages of boring narrative."

I'm sorry. Your name is...Gloria Kempton? Not Flaubert? And you've written...?

If your plan is to write for an audience of philistines, why not just write for prime time television?
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Louise
Jun 16, 2013 added it
There were some interesting suggestions and ideas in this book, but a couple of things made me wary. First, I'm not sure about the author's approach to genre fiction - in particular the suggestion that all writers of fantasy train themselves to write something called "magical dialogue", which is akin to that used in the Lord of the Rings, seems outdated (I was startled to read that this books was actually published in 2004 rather than sometime in the early 90s). Add to that the concept that it i ...more
Kimberly [Come Hither Books]
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
The least useful volume of a useful series. If you have serious problems with dialogue, then this book will give you micro lessons to help. Techniques are clear and precise, if a bit condescending. But most of the information is basic enough to be presented in other books more effectively. The scarcity of advanced techniques makes this book irritating unless dialogue is one of your weaknesses, as it feels more like remedial lessons than skill development. Recommended for writers who struggle wit ...more
Tatra
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
April 4-8, 2015
It is interesting how much goes into dialogue. And I think that it 's also good for character building.

August 14-18, 2013
If you're like me, and you're reading through all of the Write Great Fiction series, I strongly urge you to finish with this book. I loved the other books, but felt like I had to get the lessons down in a snap. But, then I read this book and Kempton says 'don't worry about this now, just write and fix it during the second draft.' She tells you to absorb the les
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Greg Scowen
Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
I wouldn't go as far as some of the reviews here and say this book was a waste of money. Indeed, as a primer into the writing of dialogue, this was perfect for me.

That doesn't mean I didn't go out and search for more guides on the topic to further the basic knowledge that I got within. But it was a good warm up and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get a light starter for a part of the craft that challenges many writers.
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Michele
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
It felt like Gloria Kempton was coaching me while I write my novel. If there is one thing I took away from this book is learning to create three-dimension characters by weaving in narrative, dialogue, and action. I recommend this book for aspiring authors.
Roger Hyttinen
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I’ve been slowly working my way through the Write Great Fiction series and up until now, my favorites have been Revision & Self-Editing and Plot & Structure, both of which are written by James Bell. After reading Dialog: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialog, I now add this book to my favorites list as well.

For many writers, writing dialog is one of the more difficult aspects of the craft and certainly can be tricky. If you are struggling with dialog or wish to add a little ext
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Aaron Bolin
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Gloria Kempton delivers a book about techniques and exercise for crafting effective dialogue; she does exactly what she promises in the title. I liked the book as it was well-written and included well-thought-out material on ways to improve dialogue.

In terms of criticism, a couple of items come to mind.
First, the author reminds us repeatedly that she is a writing coach and dialogue comes easy for her. Once is okay to establish credibility. By the fifth time, it was irritating.
Second, the book is
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Meredith
There were some good points, but the book could have been half as long.

My first problem is that many of the example passages from various novels fell flat for me. Either they were too short, or the characters weren't sufficiently introduced, or both. Very rarely did I see the tension/emotion/technique Gloria Kempton was trying to emphasize.

Second problem. This is a book on dialogue, so obviously the author is going to have a lot to say about dialogue. But I sort of got the feeling she was saying
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C.L. Phillips
Jul 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing-style
This book has some good tips that could have been expressed in half the pages. It's not great, by any means, but I do like that there are writing exercises at the end of each chapter to help with specific dialogue issues. There is a lot of redundancy in the book.

If you are writing anything and wish to improve your dialogue skills, I recommend "How to Write Dazzling Dialogue" by James Scott Bell. I found that book immeasurably helpful.
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Sara Turnquist
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a great craft book. Very thorough explanation about Dialogue, the importance of it, and how it can and needs to be interwoven with narrative and action. It speaks to a variety of levels of writers/authors and there is something there for everyone.
Raelee Carpenter
Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Great tips, but quite a bit of redundancy.
Shannon Kostyal
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Have read through a couple of times. Useful information here, although I still struggle with dialogue. It's not the book's fault though - it's a weakness on my part. Couldn't say if it's best for beginners, experts, or something in between because I think it really does make a difference where the writer's natural inclinations are, starting.
I suspect if I continually worked through the exercises, I'd improve more (but that could be said about nearly any trade). Have found similar information on
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Ted
Apr 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Less useful overall in my own application of writing dialog, and less insightful than previous works in this series. However, the methodologies described in this text may be helpful to some and several sections contained approaches I agreed with, particularly the Do's/Don'ts near the end, as well as the writer's responsibilities to the reader (Chapter 15: Connecting with the Reader). Perhaps a better book for someone looking for methods and exercises for beginners rather than advanced students. ...more
Valerie
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is rather helpful when it comes to advice about dialogue. I've picked up a lot of the stuff it mentions from just being an avid reader and from critiquing other people's writing. However, I learned a few things, and it was great seeing stuff I already knew (sometimes unconsciously) written out on the page.
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L.A. Jacob
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I read the introduction and I was done. Basically, if you can hear the voices in your head, you can write dialogue. Since that's how I write, I assumed I didn't need this book. But I skimmed through it and it's very good for those who don't hear the voices. ...more
Brock Books
Feb 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
Rubbed me raw: DNF. I'd rather pay for another book than suffer this one. Poorly prioritized, condescending, assumes you are dumber than brick. Please fire whatever kook bought this cover. They do not understand art and its importance. ...more
Elfbiter
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Nothing that new. And, well, she believes the marketing spiel that Enneagram is supposedly "ancient Sufi wisdom" (it is primarily Ichazo's creation from the 1950s) and also forgets the fact that in that system the personalities should mix with the neighboring ones (as in 5 with 4 or 6). ...more
Jan Wilder
Jun 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: love-the-word
Dialogue techniques show how to develop character and move the plot forward. Information provides the craft for establishing the character's changing emotions and growth as the story progresses. Exercises at the end of each chapter ground the explanations. ...more
Kathryn
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Entertaining and uplifting while laying down the basic rules writers need, even when we don't want to admit it. A great refresher! ...more
Matthew McAndrew
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent book for learning how to write great dialogue. Written by a witty author, it reads easy and teaches plenty of tips and tricks for those wanting to hone their dialogue writing skills.
David
Good introductory work on dialogue along with its dos and don'ts.

New writers will find the book useful and established writers might find the refresher course useful.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.
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Katrin Gertsen
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first half of the book was a little repetitive and dragging but the second half introduced a lot of useful techniques and tips for writing dialogues.
Clifford
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
He said and said he.
Felicia
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Very informative. This is a book I will being going back to from time to time while I'am trying to write my own novel ...more
Susan Tietjen
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent information for the aspiring writing. No one should try to write without this sort of guidance at hand.
Liza
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: writers, English teachers
Shelves: on-writing, ela
This is the first book I read in the "Write Great Fiction" series. There was a lot I liked about it, especially the various exercises included in each chapter. Kempton did a good job explaining the purpose of dialogue, its nuances, and what should be accomplished in a scene when writing dialogue.

However, sometime around chapter 6-7 I lost all interest in the book. In all fairness I haven't been able to figure out if it was simply due to outside factors such as work or if those two chapters in pa
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Colin Hoad
Sep 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing-books
I have always considered dialogue to be my weakest are in creative writing, and so I had high hopes for this book. It turned out to be rather different from what I had expected, but this was not to its detriment.

I was anticipating a book that would explain, in detail, how one creates dialogue - line by line. Of course, when I stop to think about that now, I realise this isn't something that can be taught in a methodical, scientific way. What you really need to do is become "possessed" by your ch
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Amara Tanith
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Eh. There's some nuggets of good information here, but it's not the wonderful resource book I had hoped to read. Kempton interjects way too much of her personal life into it, all instances of which added up to paint a very distracting picture of a woman with whom I would not get along (there's a very subtle undercurrent of unconscious misogyny to a lot of the anecdotes she tells and excerpts she chooses, and fuck did it grate on my nerves), and there were long stretches of the book that I found ...more
Justin
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Like other writer's digest books, Dialogue covers many of the fundamentals, but viewed through the lens of dialogue. Kempton does a serviceable job and presents some ideas I haven't heard of before. The book has 15 chapters covering the purpose of dialogue, fears of writing it, difference with genre/mainstream/literary dialogue, forward motion, weaving narrative and action, character motivations, setting, pacing, tension/suspense, creating mood and emotion, dialogue quirks, common mistakes, punc ...more
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