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How to Break Up Dialogue with Action

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Just as straight exposition gets old for the reader, dialogue on its own becomes tedious, too. Just a few simple descriptions solve this problem and provide context. Here's one example of how to combine dialogue with action, from "Big Bertha Stories" by Bobbie Ann Mason:

"Is your little boy still having those bad dreams?" Miss Bailey asks, looking up from her clipboard.

Jeannette nods and looks at Rodney, who has his finger in his mouth and won't speak.

"Has the cat got your tongue?" Miss Bailey asks.

Show her your pictures, Rodney." Jeannette explains, "He won't talk about the dreams, but he draws pictures of them."

Rodney brings his tablet of pictures and flips through them silently. Miss Bailey says, "Hmm." They are stark line drawings, remarkably steady lines for his age. "What is this one?" she asks. "Let me guess. Two scoops of ice cream?"

Those are Big Bertha's titties," says Rodney.

Notice the mix of dialogue and description in this scene. While a scene can be composed entirely of dialogue, it's fairly rare. Note also that each change of speaker means a new paragraph (on the page, the paragraphs would be indented).

Return to "Top Tips for Writing Dialogue."

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