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Writing Dialogue

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  369 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Characters need to speak to each other. Tom Chiarella shows you how. Whether it's an argument, a love scene, a powwow among sixth graders or scientists in a lab, this book demonstrates how to write dialogue that sounds authentic and original. You'll learn ways to find ideas for literary discussions by tuning in to what you hear every day. You'll learn to use gestures inste ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published February 15th 1998 by Story Press Books (first published January 1st 1998)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  369 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
When it comes to writing, I have heard, "Learn the rules, then you can break them." Tom Chiarella tells us he is only offering advice on writing dialogue, not rules. He advises us to listen to dialogue. Listen to our family, friends and, even, movies. We are to jot down what we hear and use it to create new dialogue. He advises comparing the dialogue in a book to its screen play. Last, we come to the final chapter titled Nuts and Bolts. In this chapter we learn about dialogue tags, adverbs, pres ...more
Nikki Magennis
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
A wonderful look at writing dialogue. I got heaps from this book - learned lots about veracity and producing meaningful dialogue. Entertainingly written, too. A definite essential for a writer, I'd say. Contains plenty of exercises, and some fabulous insights on things like silence, what is not said, plus basic nuts and bolts practicalities.
It's pretty short, only reason I gave it less than five stars. I wanted more!
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've been reading a lot of books about writing technique--only posting the good ones here. This was entertaining to read and informative. Chiarella doesn't bog the reader down with his own set of rules, instead he skillfully and humorously explains what works in dialogue and what doesn't. Also buried within are other valuable insights about writing. Recommended. ...more
K. Anna Kraft
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
I have arranged my takeaway on this book into a haiku:

"Tension, intent, taste—
There’s plenty to play with, but
The big rule? Just work."
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a nice little guide to writing dialogue in fiction. Chiaralla's focus is on listening to real people talk, how they talk, what they say - emphasizing any dialogue your write is from the characters perspective rather than the writer's or for the benefit for the reader.

There are a number of techniques for doing this, and a excellent last chapter on dialogue tags, and punctuation.

Most informative
Josh Hutton
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
The best thing about this book is it demolishes your notions of dialogue, of listening, of silence— and restructures the way you see friends, family, and creative media. "Writing Dialogue," while thorough, also moves with both lighthearted examples and biting wit. By far one of the best books on writing that I've read. ...more
Mar 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you like books about writing, this is a good one. It's clear and helpful. It's not so much into cheerleading the fledgling authors as teaching the tricks of dialogue. It's very focused, so you are given tons and tons ideas for just dialogue. It's a tad dry, but good. ...more
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book on writing dialogue is chock-full of useful exercises and applicable skills and techniques. Everything is communicated clearly and supported with examples. I liked it so much, I actually bought myself a copy for future reference.
Kelsey Bryant
Sep 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very helpful dialogue tips here, for any writer! Beware of a few profanities, however.
It includes exercises at the end of each chapter that seem helpful, but I have yet to try them. I look forward to doing so, and implementing his fresh suggestions into my own writing.
Luke Miller
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
This was a very helpful book. The descriptions and examples were excellent. I think many of the exercises in this book would be helpful for those who are not interesting in writing fiction. They would make you more observant. Help you enjoy the life around you more.
Shane Lusher
Apr 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Good source with exercises for honing your dialogue skills.
Aug 05, 2008 added it
Shelves: repeats, 2000, 2001, writing, owned
With (above)
January 27, 2001
Dec 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
It's a rare book on writing that's informative and fun to read. ...more
May 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great reference; and some excellent exercises to get it right!
G.M. Burrow
Jun 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
So good, I was just about squealing by page five. And you can tell that 95% of the fiction authors and screenplay writers out there have NOT read this book.
Lee Sinclair
Mar 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
To me, the characters are what makes a story, so dialogue is one of the most critical elements of fiction writing. This book covers all aspects of dialogue and provides lots of specifics.
Dec 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: on-writing
A great book for a beginning writer like myself. It has a lot of good advice and some good exercise to help develop your writing. I would definitely recommend it.
Jennifer Davidson
Dec 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lots of helpful information. It will certainly make me think a lot more while writing dialogue for my suspense novels...each word counts.
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
This is an excellent book for beginning writers because it gives a way to get started. Probably less useful for someone wanting to revise and hone a draft.
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Aditi Chopra
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
A great resource for writing dialogues in fiction!
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Great stuff. Clear and valuable advice, meaningful exercises. I'll definitely return to this book in the future. ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Incredibly helpful and thought provoking.
Apr 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
Some good pointers and lots of examples in this book. Especially strong in highlighting the differences between book and TV dialogue. I found other books on the topic more helpful though.
Mar 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Really helpful book about writing dialogue written in an engaging, helpful style. It never gets condescending. I learned a lot from this book and appreciated many of the exercises. I worked my way slowly through this book over a couple of months, and I think that was really the way to do it.

I don't have enough praises to sing about this book. I'm glad I own it because I can tell it's going to be a book that I reference again and again.
DNF, not because the book was bad, but because it wasn't applicable to me or my writing situation at the moment.

But I will most definitely come back to it later (hopefully in a couple months when I start drafting my novel). Definitely some great insight within these pages—though small content warning for profanity, though mainly in dialogue examples and not the actual writing.
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Solid and enjoyable to read (not something I can say for every book on how to write dialogue...ironically).
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Some good ideas, but I think it was a punctuation book I needed more than anything.
M Lewis Hansen
Feb 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Writing Dialogue has practical advice and helprul excercises, but—for me, at least—it was a skimmer rather than a reader.
Linda J J.
Jan 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Good info!
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