How To Write Snappy Dialogue – A #Balticon Panel

The panelists were: Larry Hodges, Dr. Claire McCague, James Noll, Mark Van Name, and PC Haring

Top 5 Tips For Snappy Dialogue:

  1. Skip the ‘ums’ and ‘wells’, write the idealized version of what someone would say, if they could edit their words later (Mark Van Name)
  2. End in the middle of things (Mark Van Name)
  3. People don’t speak in paragraphs or semicolons, there must be give and take (James Noll)
  4. Only snappy characters have snappy dialogue (Larry Hodges)
  5. Have people cut each other off (PC Haring)

Dialogue is an action…it’s just more socially acceptable than walking across the room and slapping someone. – (Mark Van Name)

Examples in Media Of Snappy Dialogue

  • “12 Angry Men”
  • Shakespeare
  • “The Princess Bride”
  • Gilmore Girls
  • “A Good Man is Hard To Find”
  • “The Lottery”
  • “Where Are You Going, Where Are You From”
  • Gregory McDonnell’s “Fletch” – A mystery told in 90% dialogue.
  • Dashiell Hammett – “Thin Man”, “Harvest”


  1. My characters cut each other off all the time, so it sounds like I’m doing something right! They um. . . well, they also um a bit, so. . . 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Good info! My main characters are teens so they cut each other off frequently but I try keeping the “um’s” and “well’s” to a minimum.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ums and wells should be deliberately placed for emotional effect. Yes, it may change the cadence of how the dialog reads, but it does more to indicate embarrassment or frustration.

        Of course, at that point, is your dialog still snappy? It might be emotive and evocative, but is it snappy? Different tools for different effects.

        Liked by 1 person

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