The best books on dialogue in books

1 authors have picked their favorite books about dialogue in and why they recommend each book.

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Dialogue

By Gloria Kempton,

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

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.

Who am I?

Words have been part of my life since I was ten years old when my father suggested I read a page from the dictionary each school night. “Words have lives and histories,” he said, ”make them your friends.” In my teens, I saw individual words setting the tone for how someone felt, and I promised myself one day I'd write a book about words and how they were a window to one's inner self. Little did I realize that when I wrote that book, it would morph into one about dialogue writing and achieve international kudos. The book offers this simple truth: make sure each line of dialogue moves your story forward...


I wrote...

Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

By William Noble,

Book cover of Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

What is my book about?

Dialogue must contribute to the telling of the story said Victorian-era novelist Anthony Trollope more than one hundred years ago and his words have been a yardstick for writers ever since. A more recent novelist, Stephen King, wrote, “When dialogue is right, we know. When it’s wrong we also know—it jags on the ear like a badly tuned musical instrument.”

In Shut Up! He Explained, William Noble shows you how to write dialogue that sounds right and contributes.

Writing Dialogue

By Tom Chiarella,

Book cover of Writing Dialogue

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!

Who am I?

Words have been part of my life since I was ten years old when my father suggested I read a page from the dictionary each school night. “Words have lives and histories,” he said, ”make them your friends.” In my teens, I saw individual words setting the tone for how someone felt, and I promised myself one day I'd write a book about words and how they were a window to one's inner self. Little did I realize that when I wrote that book, it would morph into one about dialogue writing and achieve international kudos. The book offers this simple truth: make sure each line of dialogue moves your story forward...


I wrote...

Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

By William Noble,

Book cover of Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

What is my book about?

Dialogue must contribute to the telling of the story said Victorian-era novelist Anthony Trollope more than one hundred years ago and his words have been a yardstick for writers ever since. A more recent novelist, Stephen King, wrote, “When dialogue is right, we know. When it’s wrong we also know—it jags on the ear like a badly tuned musical instrument.”

In Shut Up! He Explained, William Noble shows you how to write dialogue that sounds right and contributes.

Dialogue

By Robert McKee,

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

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.

Who am I?

Words have been part of my life since I was ten years old when my father suggested I read a page from the dictionary each school night. “Words have lives and histories,” he said, ”make them your friends.” In my teens, I saw individual words setting the tone for how someone felt, and I promised myself one day I'd write a book about words and how they were a window to one's inner self. Little did I realize that when I wrote that book, it would morph into one about dialogue writing and achieve international kudos. The book offers this simple truth: make sure each line of dialogue moves your story forward...


I wrote...

Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

By William Noble,

Book cover of Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

What is my book about?

Dialogue must contribute to the telling of the story said Victorian-era novelist Anthony Trollope more than one hundred years ago and his words have been a yardstick for writers ever since. A more recent novelist, Stephen King, wrote, “When dialogue is right, we know. When it’s wrong we also know—it jags on the ear like a badly tuned musical instrument.”

In Shut Up! He Explained, William Noble shows you how to write dialogue that sounds right and contributes.

The Fiction Writer's Guide to Dialogue

By John Hough Jr.,

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

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.

Who am I?

Words have been part of my life since I was ten years old when my father suggested I read a page from the dictionary each school night. “Words have lives and histories,” he said, ”make them your friends.” In my teens, I saw individual words setting the tone for how someone felt, and I promised myself one day I'd write a book about words and how they were a window to one's inner self. Little did I realize that when I wrote that book, it would morph into one about dialogue writing and achieve international kudos. The book offers this simple truth: make sure each line of dialogue moves your story forward...


I wrote...

Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

By William Noble,

Book cover of Shut Up! He Explained: A Writer's Guide to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue

What is my book about?

Dialogue must contribute to the telling of the story said Victorian-era novelist Anthony Trollope more than one hundred years ago and his words have been a yardstick for writers ever since. A more recent novelist, Stephen King, wrote, “When dialogue is right, we know. When it’s wrong we also know—it jags on the ear like a badly tuned musical instrument.”

In Shut Up! He Explained, William Noble shows you how to write dialogue that sounds right and contributes.

On Dialogue

By David Bohm,

Book cover of On Dialogue

I often think that so many problems in the world could be solved with better communication. More and more we stick with people who think like us, because the challenge of bridging ideological gaps seems too great.

So, how to talk to people who have values that are in opposition to yours? How can you connect with people whose experiences have given them a life that you can’t relate to? In On Dialogue, David Bohm gives us a way to tear apart the fear and hesitation of the no-man’s land between ourselves and people we don’t understand.

There are always people with whom we don’t know how to communicate. We can’t let that stop us from trying. Bohm’s book will give you the tools to do just that.


Who am I?

I want to make the world a better place. After many failed attempts to achieve this goal, I realized that I didn’t understand the world well enough to make a positive impact. Serendipitously, I started working with Farnam Street, a company that is dedicated to mastering the best of what other people have figured out. One of our most significant projects is The Great Mental Models book series, which consists of four volumes of fundamentals about the world. Learning and using the models to co-write this book series is how I found all the books on this list. I plan to give a set to each of my children to give them a jump start on living effectively. 


I wrote...

The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts

By Rhiannon Beaubien, Shane Parrish,

Book cover of The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts

What is my book about?

The Great Mental Models project is the clearest way to change the way you see the world, avoid problems before they happen, and make better decisions. The series consists of four volumes that cover the core, timeless, ideas that you should have learned in school and applies them to real life. This instant Wall Street Journal bestseller is the breakthrough guide you need to improve your thinking.

Dialogue

By William Isaacs,

Book cover of Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together

Bill Isaacs offers a pioneering approach to communicating in business and in life. His book starts with the assumption that people don’t know how to talk in a way that will make it easier for them to work together with others to solve shared problems. His company, DIAlogos, has organized dialogues in a wide variety of public and private settings. In the book, his discussion of “the architecture of the invisible” makes clear why better communication begins with listening, respect, suspending our own opinions, and finding our voice. I’m particularly taken with his discussion of how we can “cultivate organizational and system dialogue.” He also has some important ideas about how we can return to civility in our public discourse in the current time when “Red” and “Blue” have forgotten how to communicate at all. 


Who am I?

I am a Professor at MIT and co-founder of both the inter-university Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and the not-for-profit Consensus Building Institute that provides help in resolving some of the most complex resource management disputes around the world. I have been teaching negotiation and dispute resolution, doing research about the circumstances under which various negotiation strategies do and don’t work, and offering online training for more than four decades. Given the many negotiations I've observed, I’m convinced that negotiating for mutual advantage is the way to go -- avoid unnecessary conflict, get what you want in all kinds of negotiating situations, and walk away with good working relationships and a solid reputation.


I wrote...

Good for You, Great for Me: Finding the Trading Zone and Winning at Win-Win Negotiation

By Lawrence E. Susskind,

Book cover of Good for You, Great for Me: Finding the Trading Zone and Winning at Win-Win Negotiation

What is my book about?

There's confusion about the idea of win-win negotiation. Does it really mean that all sides get everything they want? The answer, of course, is “no.” Win-win actually refers to the parties all coming out ahead relative to their most realistic walk-away option. There are lots of detailed examples and instructions in this book, beginning with the early moves that help to identify what I call the “trading zone” – the area bracketed by what each side would be better off saying “no” to and each side’s ideal outcome.

If you care about the relationship you end up with, and not just the immediate result, you're better off negotiating in a way that enables all sides to meet their most important interests through a form of collaboration. 

Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons

By Becky Aud-Jennison, Felicia Olin (illustrator),

Book cover of Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons: Field Notes from The Death Dialogues Project

I first learned of the Death Dialogue Projects through Instagram. The author has a standing open call for Tiny Death Stories of 100 words or less, and a few of mine were showcased along with many lovely true tales of personal loss and grief. What a welcome resource as well as her emotionally raw nature of her podcast translates well into her pages. The book is an obvious project of passion embracing death literacy. I love how healing and understanding are weaved through the shared stories.


Who am I?

Saving the planet one death at a time is truly what the world needs now: to reduce our carbon footprint and go out in eco-friendly style. As the one-woman funeral service in the rural town of Boring, Oregon, I support the philosophy of old-school burial practices that are kinder to both humans, the earth, and our wallets. I have humbly been baptized the Green Reaper for my passionate advocacy of green burial, and as an undertaker and the owner and undertaker of Cornerstone Funeral, the first green funeral home in the Portland area. I love to devour all literature possible on green burial and environmentally friendly death care.


I wrote...

The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial

By Elizabeth Fournier,

Book cover of The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial

What is my book about?

Funeral expenses in the United States average more than $10,000. And every year conventional funerals bury millions of tons of wood, concrete, and metals, as well as millions of gallons of carcinogenic embalming fluid. There is a better way, and Elizabeth Fournier, affectionately dubbed the “Green Reaper,” walks you through it, step-by-step. She provides comprehensive and compassionate guidance, covering everything from green burial planning and home funeral basics to legal guidelines and outside-the-box options, such as burials at sea. Fournier points the way to green burial practices that consider both the environmental well-being of the planet and the economic well-being of loved ones.

Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories

By Elmore Leonard,

Book cover of Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories

I love me some Elmore Leonard, and 3:10 to Yuma was no exception. Although a short story, it’s a classic Western in the sense that it’s good vs. evil, and of course, there’s a shootout. A deputy marshal escorts a train robber/fugitive (another Kidd, this time Jimmy) who is headed to Tucson to be tried for his crimes. I love the dialogue and the fact that it takes place in a small town named “Contention.” Leonard was indeed a master storyteller.


Who am I?

My grandfather introduced me to Westerns at a young age—he always had a Louis L’Amour or a Zane Grey in hand. I also grew up watching Westerns with my father, especially the classics with John Wayne, or Lee Marvin, James Garner, or Clint Eastwood. There’s just something about stories dealing with good vs. evil that pulls me into the genre. Besides, we all could use a hero/heroine these days. All of my books are heavy on action adventure, mainly because I enjoy keeping myself and the reader entertained. As Elmore Leonard wrote in his 10 rules for writing, “Skip the boring parts.” I hope you enjoy exploring these great books!


I wrote...

Retribution: A Claire Whitcomb Western

By D.V. Berkom,

Book cover of Retribution: A Claire Whitcomb Western

What is my book about?

Retribution: They took everything. Now she wants revenge. Claire Whitcomb's gunning for the men who destroyed her life—and won't settle for anything less than retribution. Gunslinger: On her way to start a new life in tough-as-nails Tombstone, Claire meets Isabella, an actress and a railroad magnate’s mistress. When Isabella’s security man is killed, Claire’s hired to take his place and finds that Isabella is a target—making Claire one too… Legend: In the aftermath of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Claire accepts a job transporting a convicted murderer to prison. The only catch? She and Harry, a hotheaded bounty hunter, need to bring him in alive. Will the convict’s gang kill Claire and Harry to rescue their leader, or can the two gunfighters bring the outlaw to justice?

You Don't Have to Die in the End

By Anita Daher,

Book cover of You Don't Have to Die in the End

You Don’t Have to Die in the End is just the sort of book I’d hand to a student who struggled with finding anything relatable. Eugenia Grimm could be down to her last chance when she is sent to Reason’s Wait, a facility for troubled teens. Because of her troubled past, she has programmed herself to lock horns with any adult who tries to cross—or help—her. I cringed during her tempestuous exchanges with social workers, staff, and fellow “inmates”—hoping one of them would find a way to save this bitter, angry girl from herself. Spoiler alert: As Daher’s title suggests, Eugenia’s train wreck of a life is salvaged in the end.


Who am I?

One of my favourite sounds is teens interacting—especially when they are throwing shade. I spent twenty-five years as a junior and senior high teacher, and I miss rocking and rolling during class discussions with my students. As a writer of contemporary fiction (actually in anything I write), I work hard at using dialogue as an engine to drive each scene. Each line needs to be refined to ensure that it’s snappy, engaging, and real. I’m a writer from southeast Saskatchewan, Canada, where there’s no shortage of great one-liners to use. I hope you enjoy the dialogue in these five recommendations as much as I did.


I wrote...

Power Plays

By Maureen Ulrich,

Book cover of Power Plays

What is my book about?

Jessie McIntyre, fourteen, is new to Estevan Junior High, and she’s having trouble fitting in. By signing her up with the local girl's hockey team, her parents hope to give her a fresh start and help her make new friends, but bullies can be found everywhere—including the dressing room. Power Plays is a gritty tale sprinkled with humour, heart-pounding hockey action, life lessons, and positive female role models.

“Ulrich demonstrates that there are many ways to succeed in relationships without resorting to any sort of bullying. She stresses the importance of accepting and celebrating the differences between people rather than using them as an excuse for malicious behaviour. This is an excellent novel which provides lots of action, a little romance, and a great deal to think about.” - CM Magazine

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