Dialogue: Rock Your Reader’s Socks With Tags and Beats

Here’s a challenge I posed to my audience at the 2009 Write on the Sound conference:

Choose the “best,” if you dare, from these five exchanges of dialogue. Which would you write?

1.
“Come on now, Baby,” she said. “You don’t need that knife. What are you going to do with that?”

“I just can’t stand it anymore!” he said. “I’ve had it!”

2.
“Come on now,” she cajoled. “You don’t need that knife. What are you going to do with that?”

“I just can’t stand it anymore!” he ejaculated. “I’ve had it!”

3.
She approached him cautiously. “Come on now, Baby,” she cooed. “You don’t need that knife. What are you going to do with that?”

He swung the knife in a wild arc. “I just can’t stand it anymore!” he exclaimed. “I’ve had it!”

4.
“Come on now, Baby. You don’t need that knife. What are you going to do with that?”

“I just can’t stand it anymore! I’ve had it!”

5.
She approached him cautiously. “Come on now, Baby. You don’t need that knife. What are you going to do with that?”

He swung the knife in a wild arc. “I just can’t stand it anymore! I’ve had it!”

(Adapted from Stanbrough, Writing Realistic Dialogue and Flash Fiction)

The talk was a lot of fun. About 50 showed up. I tried to catch it on video, using my laptop and the webcam from my work. The result wasn’t perfect… but it wasn’t bad enough to delete, so here’s the seven minutes when we discussed the five dialogue exchanges above.

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