Stephanie Morrill’s Checklist for Editing Your Dialogue

Stephanie and me in Chicago.

Author Stephanie Morrill has an AWESOME blog for teen writers that you should check out. I loved her recent checklist for dialogue, and she was kind enough to let me share it with you all.
Stephanie is passionate about sharing what she knows about writing with the next generation of writers. That’s what her blog Go Teen Writers is all about–sharing and community. On her blog you can read about how she got publishedget advice on finding an agentconnect with other aspiring writers, and lots, lots more. And if you’re interested in learning more about Stephanie’s books, visit her author site at

__ Are you trusting your dialogue and using action beats, or are you trying to make up for weak dialogue with lots of, “she retorted” and “he exclaimed” and she “expostulated”?
__ Are your characters strategic about what they say next, or are they just blurting things out? Did they enter this conversation with a plan?

__ When your characters receive tough news or bad breaks, are they processing the situation and experiencing grief in a realistic way?

__ Have you fallen into a “Q&A” pattern anywhere? Where one character is doing nothing but asking questions and the other character is doing nothing but answering them.

__ Do your characters use different words for the same thing, or are their phrasings too similar? (Grocery store can also be the market, purses can also be handbags)

__ Are you letting character/story information come out naturally, or are you trying to explain too much with your dialogue? (“Gee, Bob, I’m so glad it’s our anniversary today and that we’ve been married for 7 years and have 2 beautiful children!”)

__ Does every character behave and interact as though they believe they are the main character?

__ Are you using contractions?

__ Is your dialogue age-appropriate? Or are your toddlers elegant and your grannies saying words like “peeps.” (*Shudder.* Don’t know why, but I hate that phrase.)

__ Do you have too many “group” conversations? (Conversations with 4 or more.)

__ Is “small talk” bogging down your story? (Hi, how are you? Good, how are you? Good. Nice day we’re having. Sure is. And so on.)

__ Do you have a good balance of internal thoughts and dialogue? Does the reader get a sense of not only what the point-of-view character is saying, but why they are saying it and what they feel about the conversation in general?

__ Have you considered conversations from the perspective of all the characters involved, not just the point-of-view character?

Anyone notice something that should be on the list? Leave a comment below, and I’ll get it to Stephanie.

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