Talk should not be cheap. Do your characters talk to each other? A lot? From a short story of mine.

Frustrated, Abie wiped the lens on his handkerchief and studied the numbers on the dial again. “I can’t see with these glasses.” He took them off and studied them.

“Drat, I got Ethel’s glasses. Mine must be at home.”

“Roscoe, get over here and turn this dial.” It was obvious the squinty-eyed scarecrow couldn’t see up close either.

“I ain’t got my cheaters wit me, Ray.”

Don’t use my name, you idiot.”

“You just called me Rosco.”

“Don’t argue with me. Cabbie, get over here and open this safe.”


“No? What ya’ mean no? See this here gun? I’ll shoot you in your other leg. Wanna limp on both legs?

“Gee Ray. Can a guy limp on two legs? How’s he do that?

“Shut up. Get over here. Bring the wise guy.”

Gimp Baker sized up the two morons and decided he had now seen it all. “Have I got this right? You flag me down and take my taxi to Abie’s to rob his payroll cash and then use it as the getaway car?

“That’s the plan, now get over here before I plug you fulla lead.”

“Look into my eyes, do you think I care? You just might be doing me a favor.”

“Careful what you say to Ray. His trigger finger’s always itchy.”

“It’s itchy?”

“He practices quick drawing in the mirror everyday.”

“Shut up you two. Zip it now before I shoot the both a you.”

“I toll you we should a stole a car.”

“I am not going through that wit you again. We ain’t got no driver’s license.”

Now, it's obvious these guys aren't very bright. Do you read your dialogue out loud? It can be used to present information and bring about immediacy. I like it cause I can be my informal self. And, it can really develop a character.

In Loren Estleman's Black Powder, White Smoke, Ernest Torbert, a writer, interrogates a black chambermaid in 1886 Texas about her missing ear:

Torbert's stomach did a slow turn. "Who did that?"

"My husband, sir. Well, we took no vows, but I kept his house and done my wifely duties for two years. It was the third straight night of boiled chicken necks for supper that set him off. He said if I weren't going to listen when he said he was done sick of eating boiled chicken necks, there weren't no point in my having ears at all. He cut it off with a barlow knife and he was fixing to cut off the other as well, but he done passed out.

"From the blood?"

"No sir, it was the bobtail he drunk. That man could never hold his liquor. Two shots and he was out like a cat."

"Was he colored?"

"Yes, sir, though he was high yeller and liked to pass. He picked the pockets of them that come on the cotton boats, but he never gave me none of it but what I could afford to buy chicken necks was all. That's why I ain't ashamed I done what I done.

"You ran out on him?"

"No, sir, Well, I did, but before I done that I opened the man's trosers and cut his phizzle with the barlow knife and threw 'em both in the bayou. He was dead to the world and didn't feel a thing.

"Lord Jesus."

"Yes, sir. The Lord Jesus done got me through six months in the women's workhouse. That's where I learned to make hospital corners.

I love it.

What's your favorite piece o' diologue?

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Everything Ed McBain wrote. The man was a master at dialogue. And I confess to having a soft spot especially for Monaghan & Monroe.
Yes, they are likable assholes.


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