re: How Reading John Green Can Help Your Dialogue

posted 8/30/13

Dear Editor…

I’m really struggling with writing dialogue that sounds like real people talking. Can you throw a struggling writer a tip?



Dear Tongue-Tied…

Try something that helps John Green’s dialogue and first person narration feel casual and thus “real”: He replaces the articles a, an, and the with the demonstrative adjectives this and these. From The Fault in Our Stars: “There was this tunnel that these two kids kept crawling through over and over…” When I sub in the usual articles, the sentence gets stiffer and thus feels less like a real person talking: “There was a tunnel that two kids kept crawling through over and over…” I prefer the subtlety of this technique to writing you know or like into dialogue. Give that a whirl and see how it works for you. Mix it in with other techniques, of course, as variety helps give writing a natural flow.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Dialogue, Narrative Voice
posted by: The Editor
under: Dialogue, Narrative Voice
Comments to "re: How Reading John Green Can Help Your Dialogue" | Add a Comment
    1. Michael Gettel-Gilmartin wrote (on 08/30/13 at 11:59 am) :

      I can see how certain characters would say either. The thing I’ve always believed about dialogue is that it’s specific to characters. And “real” people come in multitudinous shapes and sizes.

    2. Teresa Robeson wrote (on 08/30/13 at 4:32 pm) :

      I see what you mean, and I’m pleased to note that I have done this subconsciously. 🙂

    3. Laura C. wrote (on 08/30/13 at 9:01 pm) :

      That is BRILLIANT! I’ve never heard of that before and can’t believe how great it worked in your example. Thanks so much! 🙂