Phoning in the dialogue - Mo Fanning Author | Tips for writers
About writing dialogue

Phoning in the dialogue

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I’ve never claimed to be anything but an ill-informed Luddite when it comes to mobile phones. Or phones, as I believe the youngsters insist on calling them, refusing to believe there was ever a day when we tied them to a supporting wall with wires. Or that ‘the house phone’ once lived on a special table; one with space for the telephone directory … and a tin to hold coins left by neighbours when they came to borrow your ‘party line’.

But I digress.

It’s editing season on ‘The Toast of Brighton‘ and that means chapters where I skimmed scenes (in the hope inspiration might strike later). It’s later now … time to plug the gaps with sparky conflict-building dialogue.

I often find it helps me if I write any new exchange independent of the draft itself. I open a blank email and begin the exchange, leaving out dialogue tags and actions, hearing only what two (or more) people have to say. A short edit later, and it’s ready to drop in.

A hidden dialogue assistant

Well, blow me down, if I didn’t stumble on the dictation feature on my phone this week. On a wobbly bus into Brighton, my thumb bounced and a pop-up message asked if I wished to let technology do the typing.

I didn’t need asking twice.

To be clear, I waited to get home before acting out a fight between a reformed alcoholic and her cheating husband … but being able to let rip in character was amazing.

Amazingly productive.

Sure. My phone mishears the odd word. If I don’t edit right away, it’s a struggle to make sense of things. Unless in the habit of saying ‘full stop’ out loud between characters, you get one long Molly Bloom soliloquy. But the freedom of being able to play your characters and talk as they talk is so freeing. I imagine this would help any writers who get told different characters sound  alike.

Maybe I’m the only one blown away by this. Has everyone else has been doing this forever?


By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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