WHAT did you say? Crafting Authentic Dialogue

Filed in Ask the Editor, Author Inspirations by on November 20, 2013 2 Comments

Written by: Eddie Cruz

Crafting Authentic DialogueBecause I’m currently doing penance for my last gigantic post, this one will need your input to see completion.

Also, if you lack the time—or the energy, or the inclination—to read this through, take away this one thing, which will transform your dialogue: Read it aloud; I promise your ear will tell you what’s right and what’s wrong.


Review the First draft, then the Rewrite. Note what was changed, and figure out why. Pay attention to formatting conventions, too; they make more of a difference than you might think.

First draft:

“Good morning, Mr. Cruz,” said the woman with the clipboard unpleasantly. “My name is Korrea Newman. Do you know why you are here?”

The man who looked like a bald editor shrugged. “That policeman would not let me out of his cruiser, so I did not have much choice.”

“I understand,” she replied with fake sympathy. “There are some questions I need to ask. Would that be all right with you?”

“I doubt that I have a choice,” he thought to himself. “No.” Belligerently he continued, “Can I go now?”

She smiled falsely. “This will go much more easily if you cooperate.”

“Fine. May I have some coffee?” He inquired irately, though he never drank coffee, just trying to stall.

“I think we can manage that,” she commented, “lets get started. Do you own the car that you were driving when Officer Bennett pulled you over?”

Already, the bald man’s frustration was growing.  “I was driving the car, wasn’t I?”

“Mr. Cruz, please answer the question.”

“I do not know!!!” He shouted suddenly.

“Please try to stay calm, Mr. Cruz. We will stay at this as long as we need to.”

“OW!! I have gotten a migraine. That policeman said it was not my car so I am assuming it was not my car. Are all your questions going to be like this one? Because I also do not remember who the car belongs to.”

“You will have to wait and see. Do you know a woman named Blair Murray?”

“Maybe,” he responded. “Yes. No. I cannot  seem to remember.”

“What is the last thing you do remember, Mr. Cruz?” Korrea Newman questioned.

He remembered a darkened room, a hissing sound, and the sound of faraway bells. But he would not tell this Newman woman that. “I do not remember what.” He answered.


“Hi, Eddie. I’m Pat. Do you know why you’re here?”

“Cop wouldn’t let me out of his cruiser.”

“Sorry about that. There are some questions. Is that okay?”

“If I say no, can I leave?”

“If you say yes, maybe you can leave sooner…?”

She has a sense of humor, he thought. That’s something anyway. “Fire away, then. Can we get some coffee?” He hated coffee.

“Absolutely.” She nodded toward the big mirror on the wall. “Just be a minute. So. The car you were driving when Officer Bennett pulled you over—was that your car?”

“Well, possession is nine-tenths—”


I don’t know, all right?

A mildly startled pause. “That’s okay, Eddie. We’ll take this as slowly as we need to.”

“Cop said it wasn’t my car so it wasn’t my car.” I closed my eyes and rubbed hard at my temples. “I hope you have better questions.”

“I’ll try. Do you know a woman named Blair Murray?”

“I…maybe. Yes—no. I can’t remember.”  He felt sweat begin to gather on the back of his neck.

“What’s the last thing you do remember, Eddie?”

Dark walls. Hissing. Bells, distant and mournful. “I don’t know.”

Yes, the first draft may be a bit over the top, and it certainly contains a goodly number of non-dialogue errors. Comment below, if you’re of a mind, and tell me what you would have done differently (and why, of course). Was this useful? Please do share your thoughts.

As I was writing this, I came across two very excellent articles on dialogue. It’s intentional that these links appear here at the bottom: if you’d read them first, my little post here would have been superfluous.




Comments (2)

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  1. avatar jeff noel says:

    Eddie, what was your penance?

    Be well and remain amazed.

    • avatar Eddie Cruz says:

      “Eddie, dear,” Erika Boss Lady said gently, “You do realize your post about The Hero’s Journey was twelve thousand words long, yeah?”
      “Yes, ma’am,” Eddie said, looking closely at his shoes. “I’m weak. I need help.”
      “Well, that’s the first step,” she said. “Good for you. Three months of sub-five hundred word posts, capische?”
      Eddie noticed a scuff on the toe of his left shoe . His eyes began to tear up.
      Erika rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine, six hundred words and not a semicolon longer.”
      Eddie hoped she wouldn’t count too carefully.

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