Compelling, believable dialogue can make or break the success of your book. There is a craft to it – check out these guides and books for tips plus great examples to help you along.

Paula Berinstein

Berinstein offers a number of lessons – and insights – into what makes dialogue work. It’s not all talk.

Writing Dialogue 1-5

Chris Roerden

Filled with great advice on lots of techniques including dialogue, Don’t Murder … is recommended by Paula Berinstein, the host of The Writing Show, author of a number of books on writing, and the guru who has helped a number of authors improve their work.

Don’t Murder Your Mystery: 24 Fiction-Writing Techniques to Save Your Manuscript from Turning Up D.O.A.

Gloria Kempton

When should your character talk, what should (or shouldn’t) he say? How do you know when dialogue – or the lack of it – is dragging down your scene? Author and instructor Gloria Kempton has the answers.

Write Great Fiction – Dialogue


Sometimes it’s best to learn by example. This is a brief list of books notable for their dialogue:

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard is widely regarded as one of the best for spare, clear talk. Read anything of his, but especially Get Shorty.

Get Shorty

Dashiel Hammet

Critics are torn as to who is better at smart, sassy patter, Dashiel Hammet or Raymond Chandler. We like both. Hammett’s best-known works are:
The Glass Key

The Maltese Falcon

The Thin Man

Raymond Chandler

Again, it’s a toss-up, one of those Rolling Stones vs The Beatles things when it comes to who is better, Chandler or Hammet. See for yourself. You won’t be sorry, The Big Sleep introduces Philip Marlowe, one of the finest crime detectives in literary history.

The Big Sleep

Derek Raymond

Derek Raymond’s Garage series of noir thrillers set in roughest London demonstrates a wiseguy tone similar to Chandler, Hammet and Leonard. Maybe he’s a little grittier. Try He Died with His Eyes Open, the first of the series, for a taste of the dark stuff.

He Died with His Eyes Open

Sinclair Lewis

Moving away from crime for a moment — Lewis had a knack for capturing the vocabulary and “aggressive philistinism of middle-western America” says The Guardian newspaper of the UK.


Ivy Compton-Burnett

Much is revealed beneath the seemingly prim dialogue.

Men and Wives

Iris Murdoch

Say what you will about the rest of Murdoch’s prose, her great strength lay in the clever edginess of her conversations. She makes it look easy. It isn’t.

A Severed Head

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