How I Learned to Write Great Dialogue

I get compliments on my writing-which is cool. One of the compliments I get is my dialogue. “How do you write such realistic dialogue?”

I’ll tell you my secret. I listen.

Friday, I was talking to a coworker, I’ll name “E”. E and I were talking about stuff and I told her about my dialogue compliment. She looks at me and says, “Well, you write well because you read books by men and women. Most men don’t venture out of their genre, so they don’t know how to really write woman speaking.”


Here’s the deal. I listen. I catch public transportation. I feel like we, as writers, have an obligation. If someone takes the time to pick up your work and read it, the least you can do is put something decent on the page. Like some halfway decent dialogue. Back to my truth…

I catch public transportation. I read a lot of graphic novels and books. I read YA, romance, horror, thriller…even nonfiction. The key is to listen to people talk. Because I live in a diverse city, I have the opportunity to hear people from everywhere talk. I listen. I listen to people on the bus and on the metro. I listen to people when they come into the library and have casual conversations. I listen to people sprinkle small Spanish words into their conversations. I listen to children talk to their nannies, nannies talk to other nannies.

I think, since I feel like I’ve been invisible most of my life, I have a skill at listening. I enjoy listening because this way, I can incorporate new slang or whatever into my work. I can make my work sound and feel real because this is how people really talk.

That’s my dirty little secret. Listening to people talk should help you write better dialogue. Don’t feel like you need to jump in and add something to the conversation. Sit back and smile, wave your hand to pass over. Anything, but the best thing you can do as a writer is listen.

Then go home and write your little hearts out.


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