Writer Ursula K. Le Guin on Dialogue

All I can recommend is to read/speak your dialogue aloud. Not whispering, not muttering, OUT LOUD. (Virginia Woolf used to try out her dialogue in the bathtub, which greatly entertained the cook downstairs.) This will help show you what’s fakey, hokey, bookish — it just won’t read right out loud. Fix it till it does. Speaking it may help you to vary the speech mannerisms to suit the character. And probably will cause you to cut a lot. Good! Many contemporary novels are so dialogue-heavy they seem all quotation marks — disembodied voices yaddering on in a void.  ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Source: Open Culture


Rule 7 of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing

Elmore Leonard’s 7th Rule of Writing

Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories ”Close Range.”

Source: New York Times

#3 of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing

Elmore Leonard’s Rule #3 on Writing

Never use a verb other than ”said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with ”she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

Source: New York Times

You Smell Like A Skunk

Chapter 22

Zeke and Mickey rode in the back seat of the black BMW. Tony Gallino rode in the passenger seat, the driver thug drove. The driver thug was wearing driving gloves to prevent his hands from making smudges on the steering wheel. This was one Gallino’s pet peeves. He hated smudges. The thug took a left onto Walnut Ave. Cars lined both sides of the street. The only free spot was the space in front of the fire hydrant in front of the house where Nonna lived.

“There’s no parking spaces Mr. G. Want me to drop use off and wait at a coffee shop until you ring me?” said the thug.

“No need, Tony. The space in front of the hydrant is reserved for me. Since I’m with you, you can take my space,” said Zeke.

Gallino turned and looked over his shoulder at Zeke, “The cops let you alone if you park there?”

“They never bother me.  It’s the way it works.

Gallino said, “Interesting.” Then  he tapped the right shoulder of the thug, “Park in front of the hydrant. Don’t let anything happen to my car, you understand?” said Gallino.

“I gotcha, Mr. G,” said the thug.

Two minutes later, Zeke is knocking on Nonna’s door. Gallino is standing behind Zeke. Mickey is standing behind Gallino.

From behind the door, “I gotta no time the Jehovah’s today. Go knock on somebody else’s door.”

“Nonna, it’s me, Zeke,” said Zeke.

“I no gonna talk to you if one of those Jehovah’s,” said Nonna.

“I’m not one of them, Nonna. I’m with Tony Gallino, he wants to speak with you,” said Zeke.

“I can smell a Palitroni. You bring that scrunchy little bum with you? Don’t lie to me. I can tell when you lying,” said Nonna.

“I showered this morning,” hollered Mickey.

Nonna hollered back, “You Palitroni’s got the skunk smell. No way you can get rid of it. Anyway, you the drunken bum who drank all my dandelion wine. Now, Gino won’t come over until I get some more. I tell him he can’t come to my house until he take his blue pill, you know what I mean?”

Tony Gallino, wearing his three thousand dollar handmade suit, took his silk handkerchief out of his suit coat pocket and wiped his mouth. He said, “Nonna, it’s me, Tony. Can we talk business? These two schmucks are wasting our time.”

“Who you calling a schmuck? It’s okay to call Palitroni a schmuck, but you no call Zeke a schmuck. He’s just stupid and lazy but he gotta good heart.’

“I know what you mean about the Palitroni’s. You can’t trust them. Can I come in and we can make a deal?” said Gallino thinking he was charming Nonna.

“Okay, I’m gonna let everybody in, but I not gonna waste my food and wine on you. I tell you Tony, you try to seduce me, Rocco’s watching. He gonna ask one of the saints to give you a bad accident.”

“I promise, I won’t try to seduce you, Nonna,” said Gallino.

“Why not? Am I not pretty enough for you? Just because I don’t got those plastic things that stick out like a big grapefruit, is that the reason?” said Nonna.

Gallino, exasperated, said, “Yes, I want to seduce you, but I promise I won’t. It will hard because  you’re so beautiful.”

“Will you take me to your bed if you have a chance and I give in?” said Nonna.

“Yes, I’ll have you spend the night with me. We’ll make passionate love. But I promise I’ll be strong.”

“You a bigger fool than I thought, Tony. Now I gotta all this on my phone. Maybe I’m a gonna play it for the six o’clock news.  Know what I mean?”

“Can I please come in?” Gallino now, almost begging.

“Okie dokie,” said Nonna, taking off the latch, and opening three dead bolt locks, then turning the door handle.

Will Nonna and Tony Gallino cut a deal? What will happen to Zeke and Mickey? What’s in the package?

Writing Dialogue Like Quentin Tarantino

If you’re like me, you understand writers have to write. I’m always trying to learn from the best. In this short YouTube video, Quentin Tarantino shares how he started writing dialogue. If you’re a writer, learn from the best.

I Like Sushi

“Heads or tails isn’t working, Ray. Think of something that will favor me. What I have to say may be the most important thing anybody said all year,” said La Flor.

“But, most beautiful, tough, and edgy one if use knows what I have to say use would know what I has to say is what I has to say,” said LC.

“Stop. Stop. Stop. You’re both driving me nuts. Here’s the deal. One of you will go first, the other gets to choose where we eat tonight.”

“Dis is a good, very good deal. It reminds me of Big Carmen’s special two for one deal tonight on sausage pizza,” said LC.

“I like both options, it’s so hard for me to choose. I like sushi. What’s your choice LC?” said La Flor.

“I likes sushi, but I likes to eat barbecue more. Use can talk first if I can talks second,” said LC.

“You are so sweet, LC. I agree if I can talk first and I can choose your fav sushi restaurant. What could be more fair.  If you agree you will make me happy,” said La Flor.

“Use logic makes sense to me. Dis is why use is the beautiful, tough, and edgy one. I wish I thunk of it firsts,” said LC slapping his hand against the side of his head.

Dear reader, do you understand now why I have to go for long walks, meditate, and snack on chips and salsa?

“Let’s hear your problem, La Flor,” I said repeating to myself, do not roll your eyes. Do not roll your eyes.

La Flor takes a deep breath, brushes her hair back, reaches into her handbag and takes out her iPhone X. “You both have to promise me you won’t go goofy. Promise me you won’t take things into your hands and do something you’ll regret. Promise me, you’ll back me up, no matter what I decide to do.”

LC leans in toward La Flor. He swallows her tiny hand in both of his catcher’s mitts. Then he said, “I promise. I promise. I promise. I tinks I covered all three promises use mentioned beautiful, tough, and edgy star of my dreams.”

“What about you, Ray?

“I need to know what I’m promising to,” I say.

“You don’t trust me,” pouted La Flor.

She’s right. I don’t trust her. Well I do trust her to think only of herself; to be the star; to be the center of attention. I can work with this. I said, “La Flor, you know I trust you. Look at our working relationship. Look how well we get along.”

“Thank you, Ray. I’ll take that as you agreeing to everything I’ve said.”


Dear Reader. I’m trying to get these two to tell you what’s bothering them. Now you have an idea of what it’s like living with them. Come by tomorrow. I have a good feeling they’ll tell us what’s bothering them.




I Want Heads and Tails

“Beautiful, tough, and edgy one, I needs to talks to use about something I needs to talk about,” said LC.

“That’s nice, LC. But what I have to talk about is more important than what you have to talk about. So, what you have to talk about will have to wait until I finish talking about what I want to talk about,” said La Flor.

“I didn’t quite understand what use is saying. I tink I got the first part. Maybe the third part, but I don’t remembers the second part is nada.”

“Don’t try to sweet talk me using Spanish. You are the smartest person I know besides me. How did you master Spanish without studying? Don’t tell me until after I tell you what I want to tell you.”

“Let’s play a little game,” said La Flor.

“I like this idea, it will break the tunnel (I think he meant to say tension) over who gets to talk first, second, and turd (He meant to say third).”

“Okay, I’ll go first. I’m going to talk and you have to remember everything I said. You can’t interrupt or you lose. When it’s your turn, we’ll call Ray over and he has to be quiet while you talk and then we’ll see how much he remembers, which won’t be much because he only pretends he’s listening.”

“How can we tell who wins?” said LC.

“It’s not about winning. It’s about how we play the game,” said La Flor.

“There’s gotta be a winner so’s Big Carmen can set the odds in case anybody wants to place a bet.”

I can’t take anymore. They’re driving me nuts. I walk over, “Why don’t we flip a coin to see who goes first. Do you agree?” I said.

La Flor looked at LC. LC looked back at La Flor. They both looked at me and nodded.

I need to change my name to Solomon.

“Who wants heads?”

In unison, “Me.”

“You both can’t have heads,” I said.

“Why not?” asked LC.

“I’ll take tails, if it will help, but I want eight tries to win,” said La Flor.

“That’s brilliant beautiful, tough, and edgy one. I want tails with the same deal, too, Ray-mo,” said LC.

“I changed my mind. I want heads and tails, Ray,” said La Flor.

“You can’t have heads and tails,” I said.

“Why can’t she, Ray-mo? My beautiful, tough, and edgy girl who gives me goose bumps when she touches me can have anything she wants,” said LC.

Before I could say another word, they’re both out of their chairs. La Flor does the leap. I head to the patio.

We’ll try again tomorrow to find out what’s bothering these two. But now it’s time for love.