Reader Q: I’m struggling with my dialogue scenes. How do I find the balance? How do I know if I’ve included too much or too little? 

I’ve been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast lately, and I heard them quote—I believe—Orson Scott Card on one of his dialogue revision tips. 

After he writes a dialogue scene, as an exercise, he’ll go through and delete every third line. Then he goes through and sees if it works without it, or where the important missing details are that need to be added in. Does the flow still work?

His reasoning for this is that people don’t fully execute a thought. Often, we interrupt ourselves, we don’t directly answer the question we are asked, we leave out details…by nature, humans are confusing in speech. 

This is the main thing you must ask yourself: Is this dialogue necessary to the story? If a line or entire scene can be cut and nothing in the story or with the character(s) change, then ax it. 

Another tip (it’s possible I recommend this tip too often, but I find it to be most effective): Read the scene aloud. Does the conversation flow naturally? Are any parts forced? Do you begin to feel bored as you read it? 

This may only scratch the surface of what you can accomplish during your revisions with dialogue, but I hope it sets you on the right track.

Comment below to let me know if this tip helped you!

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