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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Orwig

Why I Write Dialogue First

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

I’m currently reading a book called Dialogue by Gloria Kempton. It has a lot of the basics for many writerly techniques, because nothing is as ever simple as just dialogue. Using broad strokes of her keyboard, she outlines why dialogue can be so hard to nail down, why writer’s sometimes shy away from using dialogue, and she gives plenty of exercises to try different ways of saying what the characters want to say.

In essence, why readers pick up books to begin with.

While reading this book, I was thinking of another, The Fault in our Stars by John Green. Now, why would I be thinking about that particular book? Dialogue has nothing to do with John Green’s themes or plot. But, it has everything to do with the emotional impact the story possessed. The Fault in Our Stars gave us readers larger than life characters, characters that felt so real and big and powerful, that we acutely noticed their absence when not on the page anymore, like a physical loss. The characters were never real and they never said these things. But because Mr. Green effectively gave them voices, voices so loud and witty and downright I-wish-I-had-said-that-moments, readers cared for them.

And sympathy is the way to a readers heart. Hero(ine), or villain, side kick, or estranged family members included; sympathy is the hook, line, and sinker. If I’m not sympathetic towards a character, why should a reader be? What’s giving the story motive and drive? The plot? Pesssh. Plots have been re-done so many times, a reader can simply find another book with more like-able characters.

The number one way to really let loose in dialogue, is to let go. Let your character’s hiss, and scream and stomp their feet. Let them laugh and cry in the same scene. Let the story unfold in their speech and view, not any outlined plan you as the writer may have. What’s the worst that can happen? You could learn something about your character you never knew, like how they actually enjoy wood working, or their worst fear is fluffy bunnies because that one awful cousin had a bunny and well…you know the rest.

Dialogue is power, it is breath and life to the characters.

Changing lines, adding description and tags comes later. Raw dialogue is powerful, because it is unfiltered and honest. It may sound a tad childish at times, or snooty, yet readers live for interaction in books. Writers live for interaction between characters in books. It automatically creates conflict and tension, and gives space for the reader to participate in this fabulous world created.

Write, speak, and watch as your characters give you something to laugh over, and cry in understanding or roll your eyes at. Because larger than life characters stick with you long after the book is over, and give examples of how one can live life loudly and authentically. Using their own voice.

Writing beside you,



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