Dialogue by Lewis Turco

I’ve had very good experiences with the “Elements of Fiction Writing” series from Writer’s Digest Books (See PLOT and SETTING). It’s a brand I’ve come to trust, so I was eager to try the rest of the books. Unfortunately, DIALOGUE was not the quality book I’ve come expect from this series.

DIALOGUE is written as an imagined Socratic dialogue between Turco and “Fred Foyle,” a character who even gets a byline on the title page. The concept of endless dialogue is interesting for about three-quarters of a page. Then it get tiresome. Then ridiculous. In order to keep it going, Turco has to do everything he tells the reader not to do. He lectures the reader, uses exposition disguised as dialogue, and intrudes on the dialogue with unnecessary asides. The result is the opposite of what Turco intended. Instead of a fun read with good instruction, DIALOGUE is a dense, slow-going book with very little helpful information in its pages.

There are headers above each chunk of dialogue to help the reader find what she’s looking for. But after wading through “Fred Foyle’s” questions and Turco’s answers, I still didn’t learn anything worthwhile.

Most unforgivable were the inserts of Turco’s own short stories as examples, which “Fred Foyle” heaps praise upon in the next line of dialogue. He even calls one story a tour de force. (Who says that about their own work?)

The introduction indicates that this book was contracted and paid for before Turco wrote it. Once the sub-par manuscript was turned in, Writer’s Digest Books had to either publish it as scheduled or have a hole in their series. They made the wrong choice. Writers can’t confidently buy any book from the “Elements of Fiction Writing” series because a bad book has tarnished the entire brand.


rating: 1 star


I recommend Writing Vivid Dialogue by Rayne Hall instead of this book.

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