“Real” Dialogue

cavemenGood dialogue in novels is not real dialogue, which is often very boring, containing as it does a lot of batting about of unimportant information between the two parties. Too often, writers get led astray by their desire for realism and write real dialogue. The extract below is taken from Confessional by Jack Higgins. It is good dialogue for a novel of this genre, sparse and to the point.

The phone rang and when Fox answered it, Ferguson was on the other end.

“It’s all set. McGuinness is going to see you.”
“They’ll let you know.”

The line went dead and Fox replaced the receiver.


A ‘real’ dialogue version of the above is:

The phone rang and Fox answered it. “Hullo?”

“Is that you, Harry?”

“It’s me, Harry,” said Major Ferguson. “I’ve got some news for you.”
“What is it, sir?”

“It’s all set. McGuinness is going to see you.”
“That’s great, sir. When?”
“They’ll let you know.”
“I must say,” Fox said, “it didn’t take them long.”
“No, it didn’t,” Ferguson said thoughtfully. “Hope they’ll play us straight this time.”

“Yes, sir so do I.”

“Well, that’s all, Fox,” Ferguson said.

The line went dead and Fox replaced the receiver.

Nothing has been gained in this lengthened version, but a great deal of the pace so essential for an action novel has been lost. By all means, write this kind of dialogue in your 1st draft, but make sure you condense it into fictional dialogue in the later drafts. This advice applies to writing in all genres.


About Danielle de Valera

Award-winning Australian author. Editor, mentor. manuscript assessor since 1992.
This entry was posted in advice about writing, advice for writers, advice on dialogue, Australian manuscript appraisers, Dialogue, editing, editors, fiction editing, manuscript appraisals, manuscript appraisers, manuscript assessments, manuscript assessors and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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