Manuscript Analysis

Dialogue

Your “talk” generally sounds good inside quotes. However, how you get readers to what’s within in the quotes is a whole ‘nuther matter. You have much to learn about the dynamics and mechanics of dialogue in extended narrative context, and it’s frequently difficult in your multi-character, extended dialogue scenes to tell who’s saying what to whom. Fortunately, dialogue mechanics/dynamics involve skills that can be learned through a little close study. I know because I had to learn them to do my first “non-fiction novel.”

I was under contract with Doubleday and knew I’d have to write strong dialogue to do my job. I’d written some dramatic sketches for stage performance, so writing what had to go inside the quotes was no problem. But I didn’t really know how to segue into speech, how to handle dialogue interchanges so readers wouldn’t be guessing at who was talking in multi-character scenes, and much more. So I went to recognized masters of fiction-style dialogue and studied how they did it.

As a result of my brain-sweat, critics generally lauded my dialogue achievement, and the book was one of only 90 Hollywood-optioned that year, and one of only a much smaller handful optioned two years in a row.

While I’m working through your book, get a few books by Elmore Leonard, maybe read Raymond Chandler’s stories, take a look at how those dudes (and Hemingway, too) handle dialogue especially what they do before and after the quotes and how they handle multi-character conversation.

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Part 1: Introduction/Overall Assessment

Part 2: Characters

Part 3: Points of View

Part 4: Dialogue

Part 5: Action, Settings and Descriptions, Pacing

Part 6: Plot Movement / Resolution, Audience Appeal, Moving Forward

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