Dialogue With Subtext

Publishing While Broke Workshop

Writing good dialogue is trickier than it seems. If you've ever said the words...

"What My Characters Say On The Page Never Sounds As Good As What They Say In My Head!"

...then help is here.

I hear that same complaint all the time from absolute beginners, unpublished "trunk novelists" with a couple of finished novels—or more—tucked away, and even sometimes from frustrated pros. When I was getting started (more than 25 years and 33 published novels ago) I had the same complaint.


Writing dialogue seems like it ought to be the easiest thing in the world.

All you have to do is listen to people talk, and then write down things like what they say. Right?

I know I tried this. Maybe you've already tried it, too.


When you put your theory into practice, though, you discover the hard truths about writing dialogue:

  • Most things most people talk about are painfully boring (and if you copy those subjects and those people, your story will be boring).
  • The subjects people talk about in daily life have nothing to do with the stories you're writing (and coming up with things for them to talk about in your story can end up seeming artificial and forced).
  • If you build your dialogue by listening to other people talk, your characters can all sound the same—or like bad parodies of people.

Writing dialogue is a critical skill for making your characters believable.

You cannot get readers to stick with your story if your characters have nothing compelling to say to each other. 

Good dialogue, on the other hand, will keep readers hanging on even if you aren't perfect on all the other storytelling skills you need.

Great, conflict-y, compelling, dialogue in a story is like overhearing two people talking under their breath at the table next to you, and discovering that one of them is your favorite movie star in disguise and the other is an international spy on a secret mission.

You just have to keep buying coffee to have an excuse to eavesdrop.

So I'm going to show you how to make your dialogue THAT irresistable.


In Dialogue and Subtext, you'll discover:

How to make two characters talking about the weather as exciting as a life-or-death meeting between enemy spies.

The trick is in your subtext---in knowing what subtext is, in knowing WHERE it is, and in knowing how to present it.

I'll completely demystify the whole aura of inaccessability that writers have built around subtext over the years.

  • An absolute beginner who has never even heard of subtext can understand this and start using it.
  • Can take the process apart and put it back together today.
  • Can start making the things your characters talk about funny, or poignant, or heart-stoppingly scary...
  • This video-plus-transcript-plus-demos-plus-worksheets workshop will walk you through the process making the words on your page hook your readers, and keep them turning your pages to see what happens next.

You Can Do This

In Dialogue and Subtext, you will learn:

  • What subtext is, and what it isn't---and how this simple definition opens the doors for you to create rich, multilayered characters in stories that interweave suspense, hidden action, deception, triumph, hopes and dreams with depth you've never achieved before.
  • How to break apart subtext into its three elements—thoughts, words, and actions—and how, once you have the whole thing in pieces, you can easily adapt each piece to do different things for you. Talking about the weather will no longer just be talking about the weather.
  • How to put the pieces back together again in four ways that will allow you to use subtexts in any situation where you need it: from a character sitting alone in a room to a group of characters enmeshed in a heated argument. Get EXACTLY the effect you want from every dialogue—internal or external, solo or group—your characters have.
  • Finally, you'll put everything you've learned into practice. Using the provided worksheets, you will begin writing dialogue with subtext that will bring your characters' voices to life.

Start building the writing skills you need
to become the writer you want to be. Today.

How To Write Dialogue With Subtext


Videos to guide you through to better, more realistic dialogue

Transcripts and Worksheets in PDF format

Always-available Classroom*
(retake this workshop alone or with other
writers as often as you like)

Forum Discussions, Brainstorming, and Help

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