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Mister Slow-Reaction Man: or How Good Dialogue is Like Bowling

By Joshua Henkin

What makes for good dialogue?  It is, on the face of it, hard to say, and the question puts in me in mind of what Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography.  “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it.”  Ultimately, though, this isn’t a satisfactory answer for the student writer, and so I’d like to try to be more specific.  I’d start with the fact that good dialogue feels spoken; it rings true, in other words.  But even that is deceptive, because what feels spoken in dialogue isn’t the same as what feels spoken in life.

June 28, 2012 | Joshua Henkin