Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writing tip Tuesday - Writing Romantic Dialogue

Here's some of my own tips for Writing Romantic Dialogue. I'd love to hear your tips and thoughts on how you write romantic dialogue.

1 - Dialogue should sound authentic, but not reflect real life too closely.

In real life people greet each other with:

"Hello, Bob."
"Hi, Sue. How are you doing?"
"I'm okay. You?"
"I have a little headache."

Dull and boring, huh? Try to strip as much of these exchanges that you can from your dialogue. Get to the heart of the matter by passing over pleasantries. Rule of thumb: Stay away from pointless chit chat.

#2 - Dialogue should move the plot forward, but not be an info dump.

When you use dialogue, reveal a little about your character, but don't go into a monologue that reads like an info dump.

"Lord Varga does not like garlic," said Lazlo.
Amelia arched an eyebrow. "I didn't know. Why?"
"It makes him sick."
"How interesting. Garlic is known for it's healing properties."
Lazlo pursed his lips.

#3 - Should I cuss?

Try not to, but remember there are times when it is necessary. If your characters gets their finger caught in a door, and the pain is immediate, they're going to cuss. Don't, however, liter your character's dialogue with cuss words. It makes your character unromantic and unsympathetic. It's more acceptable to write "he swore" than a cuss word.

"David took the money."
"What did he do with it?"
"I think he blew it on cigarettes."
Sam swore. That was all the money he had.

#4 - Dialogue shows passion

Ah, pillow talk. Flirting banter. Promises of seduction. All these types of dialogue "show" romance. And don't forget to use dialogue during your love scenes. Let your characters be playful. Show them flirting. Depending on the hero, if he's talkative, then being intimate with the heroine might be a time where he's quiet and more reflective.

"I didn't get a chance to tell you last night so I'll tell you now - I love you."
"Most assuredly."

#5 - Avoid dialect in dialogue.

Why? Quite honestly, most authors can't do it well and readers who don't "get it" might find it a bit stilted.

#6 - You are what you speak.

The words characters say reveal who they are so make them shine. Are they educated? Young? Friendly? What do they value?

"Old lady Jenning's pig ran away again."
"Did you find him?"
"Sure did - down by the river."
"Did you return the pig?"
"I sure did. She said she appreciated my honesty."

#7 - Dialogue shows suspense

The lack of dialogue or reluctance to talk may heighten the suspense.

"Do you know what she wanted?"
"What was what?"


Write a vignette, no more than 500 words using one of the following sentences as a prompt.

Prompt #1 - "Josie, don't do that!"

Prompt #2 - "Aiden, you are such a rock."

Send it to me as an attachment to either: sgcardin1@yahoo.com or botrina_buchanan@yahoo.com ATTN: Romance Dialogue Contest and I'll pick one which I will feature in my official JULY 2011 newsletter. Winner gets a $5.00 GC to Amazon.



  1. These are all great tips, Steph. Once I get my dialogue written, I edit it mercilessly, and then I do a final test by reading it aloud. First I read the section as if it were an entity. Then I read only one character at a time, say the heroine, all the way through the scene. This helps me keep the tone consistent for each person.


  2. I adore writing dialogue. It keeps the plot moving at a quick pace. I agree that books full of cuss words distract from the story. If you use it sparingly, it makes a far greater impact.

  3. Excellent article. Last thing you want in a story is a lot of polite chit-chat, though people do it all the time.

    But then most people are not as compelling and engaging as the main characters we create. :)

  4. Great tips, Steph. My books come to me as dialogue, so my entire first draft is usually nothing but dialogue. Every once in a while there will be a tag, usually action, but it's not anything that would make for exciting reading. That comes when I go through the book a second time. :)

  5. Ladies, thanks so much for popping in. Maggie, awesome tips. I love the one about reading to yourself. I'm going to have to try that.

    Jannine, I agree about the cuss words and I try to stay away from them and use appropriately.

    Nike, ditto - polite chit-chat just throws off your word count. I know I can tend toward this though, so I look for it on my edits so I can cut it out.

    Sarah, great to have you pop in. I actually love writing dialogue because it really moves the plot forward. How do you find that technique? Does it slow you down or keep you writing?


  6. Hi, Steph--I skip a lot of blogs, but when I see something different, "interesting," I pop over. Thanks for these tips--great job. Celia

  7. Great examples, Steph! Thanks for the tips!

  8. Celia & Liana, thanks for popping in!

  9. This was refreshing besides helpful. Thanks for the tips, Stephanie. I enjoyed your post.

  10. I agree with most of your advice, especially the cussing. I can't stand it when the dialogue is nearly all F-words, too distracting.

    BTW, I actually do accents rather well, but the best advice I received for accent placement was to "sprinkle them in like cookie crumbs, a little goes a long ways."

  11. Laurean, you're welcome. :) It's nice to see you pop in.

    Janice, yes, that's the best way to do it, I think, so it's not overwhelming. Accents are not easy, but I you can be very effective if treat them like cookie crumbs. Thanks for popping in!