Have you ever read really boring dialog in a book? You know, like this:

    “Jane,” said Tarzan, “have you ever noticed how much the monkeys love me?”
     “Yes, Tarzan, I noticed it,” said Jane. “In fact, one is climbing on you right now.”
     Tarzan scratched his head. “He’s pulling on my ear. Isn’t that cute?”
     Jane smiled up at the little scamp. She raised her hand to pet his furry back. “You know, Tarzan, I think he’s my favorite one. What should we call him?”
     “I know!” said Tarzan. “Let’s call him Scamp!”
     “Why, Tarzan! That’s just the name I was thinking of!” said Jane.

Yuk! How boring. But why? Why is that dialog boring?

WRITING PROMPT FOR MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL: You've read boring dialog before. Read some here! Then read some snappy dialog and learn how to write some of your own.

The secret to exciting dialog

That dialog between Tarzan and Jane is boring because there is no conflict. Tarzan and Jane do not disagree on anything. They both love each other’s ideas and get along just dandy.

This is the way we would like life to be: everyone getting along.

But it is not the way to create exciting dialog.

Here’s an example of some interesting dialog from C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew. Polly and Digory have been transported into another world and are just exploring it. However, it is empty and silent. They are bored, but their dialog is not boring:

    “Let’s go home,” said Polly.
     “But we haven’t seen anything yet,” said Digory. “Now we’re here, we simply must have a look round.”
     “I’m sure there’s nothing at all interesting here.”
     “There’s not much point in finding a magic ring that lets you into other worlds if you’re afraid to look at them when you’ve got there.”
     “Who’s talking about being afraid?” said Polly, letting go of Digory’s hand.
     “I only thought you didn’t seem very keen on exploring this place.”
     “I’ll go anywhere you go.”

Notice how Polly and Digory disagree on whether to stay in this new land, and then Digory insults Polly by hinting that she’s afraid. There is a lot of conflict in those short sentences!

Now it’s your turn: You just heard one friend lie to another friend. Write out the dialog. What happens next?

For a quick tutorial on how to correctly punctuate dialog, you can visit Tarzan and Jane again here.

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Watson
Photo credit: godfer / dollarphotoclub.com
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Drop the Drama: Help Stuggling Writers Jump These 5 Hurdles

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Help your struggling writers—and you!—by identifying five hurdles to writing. Then learn practical actions you can take against those hurdles.

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