Dialogue + 4 Things #Authors Should Consider Regarding What Your Characters Know?

Today’s Featured Friday post is a guest post from sci-fi writer Massimo Marino, an award-winning author and scientist. He’s going to talk a bit about dialogue between characters in your novel as well as how they know what they know. He’ll also offer up a few suggestions for authors to consider when creating characters’ personas.

Take it away, Massimo!

The Most Boring Dialogue Ever

Last week I took the tram from CERN to the Cornavin Train Station. It’s a ride of some twenty minutes. At one stop, two young women sat near me. The moment they started to talk I knew they were American: they sprinkled their sentences with “like” and “you know.” I started counting; in five minutes they used the two phrases over a hundred times. “Like — you know — he called and, you know, he said — like — do you want, like, to do something?” “Like what did ya say?” “Like I told him, you know, like…” and on and on and on. Besides wanting to beat the story out of them without all the “likes” and “you knows” it proved me the point that we can’t copy real dialogue. Writers cannot write the way some people talk. Dialogue needs to sound true to the ear — a dilemma at best —  and, yes, I admit I eavesdrop all the time, and watch, and have no desire to reform.

But it’s a great way to get story ideas and create personas for characters.

For example, how many times you heard the following conversation? It must be repeated millions of times each day, but it makes for boring reading.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hello,” he said.

“How are you?” she asked.

“Fine,” he replied.


One of the reason dialogues like this fail is because they don’t serve one of a dialogue’s primary purposes: move the story plot forward.

What to Do to Create Knowledgeable Characters

Before learning the ropes, many novices make the mistake of putting in too much information, things the other speaker knows already.

“Honey, I cannot take you to your Auntie Helen’s tonight, who lives next door at 113 Embury Avenue, and is married to your Uncle Ed. The car we bought only last year broke down; the red Mustang I use to drive you to work at the same supermarket as our neighbor, Sam.”

No character would ever talk like that! However, even though I exaggerated, I’ve seen things close to that in the first efforts from writers at their first words, especially in sci-fi stories.

Information should be imparted, but it has to be based on information the other speaker doesn’t know.

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