When Writing Dialogue, Don’t Forget Who’s Talking

Kyle A. Massa

A burly henchman wearing an eyepatch and a prickly sneer leans against a castle parapet. He stands not three paces away from a knight in glittering armor. The latter of the pair is not happy.

“I’ll ask again,” growls the knight. “Did you or did you not witness the incident in question?”

The henchman thinks on this for a moment. He wads a ball of phlegm in his throat and spits, not far from the knight’s shiny boots.

The henchman says, “For whom do you work, sir?”

And the reader thinks, Wait a second. What?

Dialogue is one of the trickiest components of writing fiction. We authors spend years learning the numerous rules of grammar and punctuation, only to discover they should, almost always, be ignored when writing dialogue. After all, people rarely talk like they write.

Consider the above example. It’s grammatically correct for the henchman to use “whom”…

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  1. Thanks for sharing, Chris. I realize “untagged dialogue” is a big trend right now. Maybe it’s all my failing, but I just can’t keep up. Recently I figured out that I had the roles reversed, for an entire series… I have only read one person who can do “untagged” well. It gives me a headache to try and read it from most people…
    Okay… so this is right up there with the pop-ups that interrupt my reading, demanding that I sign up for a news letter or follow…

    Liked by 1 person


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