Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.

Writing Excuses 4.26: Avoiding Stilted Dialog

“As you know, we’ll be discussing stilted dialog” said Howard. “We should do something different for the introduction.”

“Let’s speak our dialog tags” said Brandon cleverly.

“We mustn’t forget to include adverbs” said Dan pensively.

That’s not exactly how it went down, but that’s a nicely stilted object lesson, right? And let me state for posterity that writing it was painful.

What is “stilted dialog?” Who is wearing stilts, and why? More importantly, how can we avoid writing dialog that staggers about on leg extensions?

We offer a few tricks, including heavily re-writing (after first racing to get as much dialog on the page as possible), using turns of phrase that are in-character for the person saying it, and turning exposition into arguments.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, which is currently being read by the Internet reading group One book, One Twitter.

Writing Prompt: This is a two-parterStart by writing the very worst infodumping maid & butler dialog you can (using an actual maid and an actual butler.) Now rewrite it with the maid & butler arguing viciously. Include all the same information, but make the dialog believable and entertaining.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

Visit for a free trial membership*.

*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

Powered by RedCircle