The best books on writing provocative, dramatic dialogue

William Noble Author Of Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue
By William Noble

The Books I Picked & Why

Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue (Write Great Fiction Series)

By Gloria Kempton

Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue (Write Great Fiction Series)

Why this book?

I find her goal of showing dialogue as a natural extension of breathing and talking both provocative and crucial. Writers need to become the characters they are writing about and Kempton shows how dialogue can set a mood, intensify story conflict, reveal character motives, and develop setting and background. She provides challenging dialogue-writing exercises at the end of each chapter.


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Writing Dialogue

By Tom Chiarella

Writing Dialogue

Why this book?

Savvy writers don't limit themselves to writing dialogue in a single media market; they welcome opportunities and challenges in print and broadcast, whether it's writing fiction or doing film or television scripts. This book spells out how to approach dialogue writing with specific media and how to achieve realistic and dramatic effects. The author urges writers to listen... listen... listen...and “hear the people around you!” Be an eavesdropper, he suggests, and remember what you hear!


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Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and Screen

By Robert McKee

Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and Screen

Why this book?

This author is a renowned Master Teacher of storytelling art whose students have won numerous writing awards across the media spectrum. He covers dialogue writing for live theater, film, and television and offers suggestions on building effective dialogue writing skills, no matter the media, even showing how a dialogue line might change depending upon the writing category. He provides easy-to-follow examples of both good and bad dialogue writing in the various media categories.


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The Fiction Writer's Guide to Dialogue: A Fresh Look at an Essential Ingredient of the Craft

By John Hough Jr.

The Fiction Writer's Guide to Dialogue: A Fresh Look at an Essential Ingredient of the Craft

Why this book?

Here is a “look-see” at writing fiction dialogue while mindful of and applying some of Elmore Leonard's classic Ten Rules of Writing: when to use dialogue tags... why using “said” is best... why not to use adverbs to modify “said”...? There's history here, too, as Hough traces the refining of fiction dialogue as an art form from the nineteenth and early twentieth century to the present while providing stunning examples along the way.


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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

By Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Why this book?

I have used this modern classic in my writing classes and students find it both helpful and enjoyable. While only a single chapter is devoted exclusively to dialogue-writing, Lamott's homespun advice and conversational tone wrap her dialogue-writing advice around other story elements such as plotting and characterization so dialogue becomes part of an integrated story rather than saddled with irrelevancy. There's practical advice here on getting started, on joining a writer's group, and on coping with writer's block.


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