One thing I love about Stephen King books is the dialog. I can tell I like these people by the way they talk.

Susan smiled a little defensively. "Sure, I'm sure. He looks like . . . oh, I don't knowa college instructor or something."

"They say the Mad Bomber looked like a gardner," Mrs. Norton said reflectively.

"Moose shit," Susan said cheerfully. It was an epithet that never failed to irritate her mother.

DialogBubbleThat chunk is clearly from an early work, before Mr. King focused on eliminating all adverbs from his dialog attribution. Later, in On Writing, he'll take himself to task for those adverbs. I think they're delightful. Here's another bit where you can hear the voices if you care to listen.

"Sure it does. This isn't Boston or New York. It's not going to be just a matter of me keepin' my lip buttoned. People are going to talk. Why, there's an old biddy over on Railroad Street, name of Mabel Werts, who spends all day with a pair of binoculars"

"I don't care about the townspeople. My partner doesn't care about the townspeople. The townspeople always talk. They are no different from the magpies on the telephone wires. Soon they will accept us."

I like the way he uses dialog because somehow in the way he has his characters speak, we learn more about them than when he reveals what they're actually thinking. You can hear an open, honest thought process there. Dialog is also useful for demonstrating the bond between people. I tried to use playful banter between the boys in The Vivisectionist to demonstrate the friendship that evolved:

"Hey, you guys ever hear about that snake last summer?" asked Ben.

"Are you just trying to scare everyone?" asked Jack.

"No, seriously, you didn't hear?" said Ben. "Last summer this guy's six-foot boa got out of his house and lived in the woods for weeks."

"Shut up!" said Stephen. "That's the oldest story ever."

"Whatever, you don't have to believe me. Some guy almost hit it driving down Kirkpatrick Road." maintained Ben.

"Oh, wait — I heard about that," said Jack.

"You guys are full of shit," said Stephen.
"Really. I saw the picture in the paper," replied Jack. "The worst part was that when they caught it, it got upset and disgorged."

"Yeah, that's the one," agreed Ben. "Snakes get scared and throw up so they can run away."

"Well I do know about that," said Stephen, "but I still say you're full of shit."

"Anyway," continued Ben, "what they didn't say on the news was that it disgorged a whole baby."

"No way!" said Stephen.

 I don't think anybody wants to read page after page of pure dialog, but it does make a nice break the for the eyes to get some short, quick lines in there to break up all the text. There's one big problem though. It's really hard to know when it's right. It can sound right to me, perfect even, but I know how it's supposed to sound. If you cut out some of the description (trying to reduce the clutter), you can accidentally make a chunk of dialog that looks right to you, but is ambiguous to the reader. 

In the title of this post, I promised some free ideas. When an interesting bit of dialog crosses my path (overheard or imagined), I like to write it down. A lot of times I don't use it verbatim, but I try to capture the feel of it in a story. Here are some random ideas you can have for free (they're worth every penny):

"He doesn't say 'good morning,' he says 'morning,' and he says it like it's a warning."

* * * *

"I hate people who's names are verbs, but you totally Petered that."

* * * *

"You had sex with him, but you won't with me?"

"I actually care about you."

"Huh. Could you care less about me for a few minutes?"

"I'm starting to."

* * * *

"How long are you going to hold this against me?"

"Not the rest of my life, but probably the rest of yours."


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