One of my biggest pet peeves while beta reading is too much dialogue.  My simple rule is: no spare parts. No unnecessary words. Nothing to excess.

Listen, if you include an unnecessary sentence or two in a passage of description – it will cause temporary slowing, but most readers won’t notice or care.

However, if you do the same in a block of dialogue, your characters will seem to be giving a speech rather than simply speaking.

Just don’t do it!

Keep it spare by allowing gaps in the communication and letting the readers fill in the blanks.  It’s like you’re not even giving the readers 100% of what they want. You’re giving them 80% and letting them figure out the rest.


Take this, for instance, from Ian Rankin’s fourteenth Rebus crime novel, A Question of Blood. The detective, John Rebus, is phoned up at night by his colleague:

… “Your friend, the one you were visiting that night you bumped into me …” She was on her mobile, sounded like she was outdoors.

“Andy?” he said. ‘Andy Callis?”

“Can you describe him?”

Rebus froze. “What’s happened?”

“Look, it might not be him …”

“Where are you?”

“Describe him for me … that way you’re not headed all the way out here for nothing.”

That’s great isn’t it? Immediate. Vivid. Edgy. Communicative.


Gaps are good. They make the reader work, and a ton of emotion and inference swirls in the gaps.

Shave down any unnecessary dialogue and you’ll be surprised at how much better your story sounds.

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