How Does Craig Johnson Write Great Dialog?


Yesterday I attended Writing Great Dialog with Craig Johnson. The author of the Walt Longmire novels is very personable and funny. Johnson said writers are “meticulous.” By the end of his presentation, I wondered if he is a Virgo? With his trademark cowboy hat on, he gave us several pointers on how to improve our writing style.

Johnson said that relying on the key actions of a distinct character voice was something every writer needs to think about. Writers should also refrain from using “he said” and “she said” in their prose. It isn’t a good habit to have. I learned that we should scan our work to make sure that all characters do not have “the same patterns and rhythms.” I think this can be difficult for me as a writer since I am naturally poetic. “You need to look for a way to give them a voice of their own,” Johnson said.

When it comes to great dialog, we should “listen to what people say and how they say it.” Real world experience is key in the development of strong dialog in our prose. Johnson told us “if you hear a sequence of dialog and it sounds familiar, find a new way to say it.” That is a very good point. Writing is always about saying things in new ways. I found myself thinking that I need to start listening to people differently. Engaging conversationally in a new ways can improve dialog.

After reading from his new book set for release in 2014, Johnson discussed the importance of character development. Johnson told his audience that “there is dramatic conflict in the beginning of his newest novel that ropes people in.” A strong introduction of your lead character is crucial in the beginning of the book. Johnson confirmed that “people read the first few pages of a novel and decide if they want to read more.” A lack of character will not keep people interested.

I tend to be over wordy when it comes to my writing. I need to learn to simplify to become a better writer. Several of the famous authors have said that what isn’t incorporated into prose is what is of greatest importance. What is not being said is always important in dialog. Johnson told us that “sometimes it is infinitely more important then what is being said.”

Tonight Craig Johnson will deliver the keynote for dinner.
It is sure to be an interesting night.
Longmire! 🙂

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One Comment on “How Does Craig Johnson Write Great Dialog?”

  1. Sandra Says:

    WOW. Way fun!!!

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