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Writing Realistic Dialogue and Flash Fiction: A Thorough Primer for Writers of Fiction and Essays

(Harvey Stanbrough- Central Avenue Press, 2004)

Reviewed by Beth Morrow

Copyright 2005 - All Rights Reserved

Somewhere near the middle of the introduction of Writing Realistic Dialogue and Flash Fiction, Harvey Stanbrough comments that "…flash fiction is such…an enjoyable exercise that I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce it to as many writers as possible. In purchasing this book on dialogue, you're getting a two-for-one deal--well, at least one-and-a-half for one" (p. 13).

I completely disagree. Stanbrough's engaging and insightful offering for writers of all fiction subgenres--and any writer who uses dialogue-- is more like eight books in one.

In a low-key and conversational manner, Stanbrough begins by presenting a short introduction to the elements of dialogue and dialogue vs. narrative passages. Unlike your high school English class, there are no dry dialogue lessons here--through short examples and straightforward explanations, you'll discover not only how to make your dialogue more effective, but how to use the spoken word to create and enhance character, setting, mood, theme, and plot. You'll learn valuable keys to combining dialogue, punctuation and sentence structure to pace and intensify crucial story elements to engage the reader's interest--and ultimately their emotional involvement in your prose.

Don't let the simplistic appearance of the table of contents fool you into believing this book is basic. Packed with hints, lessons and important advice on how to use dialogue to your advantage in a variety of situations, every page had me thinking about how to tighten my current fiction work-in-progress by tweaking the dialogue and punctuation to accomplish more.

The final chapter on flash fiction is delivered just as promised. He gives a working definition of the genre then moves into a brief discussion of the elements with several examples and suggestions for using flash fiction as a tool to improve your writing skills. Being forced to weave setting, conflict, character, resolution and suggestion successfully in 99 words or less is bound to make any writer better--or possibly insane. But with Stanbrough's guidance and exercises, it's worth a try. You may even discover, like me, that flash fiction is fun.

If you're considering adding a book on dialogue to your writing library, consider Writing Realistic Dialogue and Flash Fiction. Whether you're a published author or still working your way to print, you'll definitely be treated to more than you bargained for.

Read Beth's review of the companion book:

The Revised and Expanded Punctuation for Writers: A Thorough Primer for Writers of Fiction and Essays


About the author: Beth Morrow is a freelance writer who is learning to create in the middle of things. In addition to both national and regional writing credits, she authors a daily blog of writing resources at www.writers-loft.blogspot.com, compiles a monthly column on small press and independent publishers and is working on her first nonfiction book on writer's retreats. She can be contacted through her website: bethmorrow.com.


         Last updated: February 19, 2007