Dialogue Workshop

Our aim is to present different facets to consider when writing dialogue. These can then be applied to fiction and the skills transferred to writing nonfiction, too.

We look at substance:

  • what makes realistic dialogue,
  • indirect and direct delivery,
  • the added tension created by subtext and the need for conflict.

We also provide an overview of the form:

  • conventions of tags,
  • the art of stage directions,
  • dialect,
  • consistency
  • the effect white space gives to a piece of writing.

Examples are provided throughout and practice activities encourage you to hone your own style whilst looking at some of the masters such as Raymond Carver and Ernest Hemingway.

We provide a minimum of 8 writing activities – some for assignments and others to practice as group or individual activities in the workshop.

Writing assignments are handed in and the course facilitators give feedback.

Excerpts from the workshop materials


As Allison Amend says from Gotham Writers,

Two little tips for realistic dialogue. Contractions are good. Only a very formal person will say: I do not think this is the best idea. Most folks would say: I don’t think this is the best idea. And though writers are instructed to avoid clichés, characters often use hackneyed phrasing. As a description, hot as hell doesn’t do very much. But it would be perfectly acceptable for certain characters to use this phrase in dialogue.


It’s like reported speech in a sense. Indirect dialogue can come in handy when the gist of what was said is more important than the actual dialogue.


Sometimes, we are on the brink of saying what we are really thinking, but pull back to stop the conversation developing into a full blown argument or impacting in a way we want to avoid. But our real feelings reveal themselves in more subtle ways. We can use this as a technique to improve fictional dialogue and make it more true to life. Conversations often contain comments which we choose to ignore but are not duped by. This can also add tension to the dialogue, exploiting two levels of meaning.