Lesson Plan: Writing Effective Dialogue
1. ‘said’ is dead.
Brainstorm as many words as you can think of to substitut for said.
Discuss the following points on how to write good dialogue:
Basic dialogue format for narratives.
When characters speak, their exact language should be in quotes, and the reader should know who’s speaking, thus these rules:
- Each speaker gets his or her own paragraph; a return and indent. This mimics real conversation, indicating pauses and so forth.
- Attributions (“He said, “She said” and variations) should be used, but not too much, and varied so they’re not repetitious; they can be used at the start of quotes, in the middle, or at the end. When attributions are overused, they get in the way; the key is that the reader should always know who’s speaking.
- Always use a comma after attribution (She said,) when introducing a quote.
When I was eight, my father dragged me into my bedroom after I lit a folded pile of his shirts on fire. I sat on the edge of the bed, not looking up, my hands folded mannerly in my lap.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You lit my shirts on fire, boy? Where’d you learn that?”
“What? Daycare? You learned how to light shirts on fire at daycare?”
I froze and looked up the ceiling, trying to backtrack. I actually learned how to light matches by watching him light his pipe, but I couldn’t tell him that.
“A kid brought matches one day. I told him matches were bad.”
“I’m calling your daycare.”
“No,” I said. Okay, I screamed it, and he scowled at me.
“Tell me the truth, lad.”
I took a deep breath and let is slide out: “I hate your shirts, Dad.”
With grateful thanks for this material from this source.