✨ Order my book
The Plottery's Learning Room
Avoiding Auctioneer Dialogue

Avoiding Auctioneer Dialogue

dialogue writing tools writing skills Mar 27, 2024

Pacing: discussed more often than understood.

When it comes to pacing a novel, the first thing most of us think of is overall pacing. Plot, chapter, scene. Maybe you’ve got a picture of the plot pyramid in your head or know that a gun fight moves faster than an afternoon at a cafe.


Or maybe you’re someone who goes straight to structural pacing. Two short sentences followed by a long one. No more than three long paragraphs in a row. Writing is like a rubber band and you’ve got to stretch it back and forth to keep it moving. 

What I doubt many of us think of is dialogue pacing which is very unfortunate because it’s often the lynchpin of overall pacing.

ALSO: The 3-step System to Create a Well-Written Dialogue

Think back to 2007 and the final, rushed battle of Pirate of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Our main couple, five movies down the line, have no clue if they’re going to make it out alive and Elizbaeth delivers the iconic line demanding Barbossa marry them right in the middle of the battle. Despite the clashing swords and screams, the whole scene slows down while Barbossa, clearly thinking them both mad, gives them the Vegas drive-thru wedding of their dreams.


Despite the media shift, dialogue in writing works similarly. Dialogue itself not only has a pace, but can set the pace of a scene.


The checklist


As an author, dialogue pacing can be nefarious because you know more than your characters and your reader.

It’s statistically unlikely that you’ve written your entire novel in one sitting. Meaning it’s likely that you take space to digest important moments. Dialogue can end up rushed because we’ve processed the importance and impact of a conversation while away from our story, but don’t give the characters and readers the same amount of space to do it themselves.

It’s also likely that you’ve plotted most, if not all, of your novel prior to writing and you know significantly more about the world, characters, and plot than your reader does. Dialogue can end up dragging because we’re trying to impart knowledge to our characters and readers, and end up infodumping a ten minute conversation’s worth of world building onto them.


When checking your dialogue pacing, it’s important to put yourself in your readers’ (and characters’) shoes. Asking questions like these can help:

  • Are my characters moving on from a revelation without thinking about what it means?
  • Has the dialogue ended before anything meaningful was said?
  • Is my character giving a monologue that any reasonable person would interrupt in real life?
  • Are my characters monologuing back and forth like they’re auditioning for the role of Hamlet?
  • Have I forgotten the last line of dialogue by the time I’m starting to write the next?


If you answered yes to any of these five questions, your dialogue pacing is probably off.


The golden rule


Interestingly, dialogue pace is controlled in the same way as overall pacing. 

When you want your dialogue to move quickly, focus on dialogue with forward moving action between statements.

ALSO: In Fervent Defense of Said

An example from my current WIP is:

“Behind me.” Noah looked back at Elodie. “Now.”

“No.” She didn’t move.

He pulled his sword out. “Don’t argue.” 

“Why not?”

He glanced at her. “Because there are people who want to kill us right there.”

On the other hand, when you want dialogue to move slowly, focus on dialogue with observations and introspection between statements.

ALSO: You said, I said, We All Said

Let’s take the same example and try to slow it down:

“Behind me.” Noah looked back at Elodie, and she wondered if it was fear or excitement in his eyes. He was a soldier, after all, and a soldier who hadn’t seen battle in quite some time because of her. “Now,” he tacked on as he turned to peer around the edge of the hedge they were hiding behind.

Despite the cold anxiety creeping up her spine, she found herself leaning to see past him with a soft, “No.”

She could feel what had to be disdain in his sharp exhale and almost pulled back just to avoid his retort. A retort, which to her surprise, didn’t come. “Don’t argue.” He kept his statement short, slipping his sword from its sheath and never turning to look at her.

“Why not?” Despite her words she backed away as she asked, pressing herself against the leaves and glaring at his armored back.

“Because,” he started with what sounded like forced patience, “there are people who want to kill us,” he turned his head briefly to meet her eyes, “right there.”


Choosing a pace


Recognizing and implementing pace is only half the equation. The final part – and most important if it’s worth a whole half of the equation – is recognizing what pace matches the scene you’re writing, and this is the biggest difference between dialogue and overall pacing. Chapter and scene pacing is a part of the greater structure of your novel and ensures plot flow. Dialogue pacing is about more than flow.

Dialogue pacing is about emotion. Dialogue pacing should be dependent on the purpose of a scene and what you want the reader to feel, not matching the pace of a preset structure.

Typically, slower dialogue pacing is used to help a reader understand the gravity of a situation or convey an intense emotion. This effect is also called manipulation of narrative time, and is why five minutes sometimes last a whole chapter and sometimes last less than a sentence.

Faster dialogue pacing, on the other hand, is typically used to convey a sense of chaos and urgency to the reader and is often paired with action scenes or the moments leading up to a devastating (and typically slower) moment.


Pro at Prose


Pro at Prose is The Plottery’s newest offering! Novel Plotting Academy focuses on how to plot and structure your novel, and Pro at Prose complements NPA with a focus on how to improve the writing in your novel.

Pro at Prose gets into the nitty gritty of the art of writing itself, including things like flow, word choice, dialogue, editing, and more.


Pro at Prose launches in Spring 2024!



What is dialogue pacing?

Pacing is a critical aspect of writing at all levels, with plot, chapter, and scene pacing being the most discussed. Dialogue pacing – or the rhythm and flow of the conversations between your characters – is often left out of the discussion despite often being the reason plot, chapter, or scene pacing falls flat.


How do I avoid infodumping during dialogue?

The three quickest ways to avoid infodumping through dialogue are to (1) intersperse action throughout the dialogue to break it up, (2) include distractions that interrupt dialogue and temporarily put off conversations, and (3) allow your characters to build off each other and piece it together…well, together.


What is the hardest part of dialogue pacing?

The hardest part of dialogue pacing is remembering that your characters (and readers!) don’t have the plot insight or processing time that you do. This can lead you to rush or linger where you shouldn’t.


Is there ever a good moment for a monologue?

It depends on your definition of monologue. A single character confessing their love with completely uninterrupted dialogue for half a dozen paragraphs? Probably not. A single character confessing their love with dialogue interrupted by their own actions and their lover’s reactions for half a dozen paragraphs? I will eat it up every time.


Elizabeth Miles
Written for The Plottery

I’m Elizabeth Miles, but you can call me Lizzie! I am a full-time stay-at-home mom and part-time author during breaks from chasing down over-confident toddlers. Mystery, romance, and fantasy are my favorite genres for both reading and writing. You can find me on Instagram (@authorlizziem) and TikTok (@authorlizziemiles)!



Read more blogs below!

What Story Are You Telling?

Apr 21, 2024

Why Writing a Diary can Save your Life

Apr 18, 2024

Writing a Criminal Minds Inspired Mystery

Apr 15, 2024

Looking for our priced offers?

Novel Plotting Academy

Novel Plotting Academy is my self-paced course packed with lessons & resources on how to outline properly and finish your first draft.

Take me to NPA
Book Editing

Apply to Jasmina or Beck, our two editors here to take your pet project and turn it into a professionally polished manuscript - ready for submission.

Take me to editing

Power Plotter is a 4 -month coaching program where you get full support and consistent feedback on your project.

Take me to coaching

Sign up to our email list!

You'll receive tons of  resources, weekly bite-sized writing lessons, and first dibs on any of our special offers.

We'll never share your information nor overload your inbox with annoying emails. Unsubscribe at any time.