Stating the Obvious

Drowning Your Story
in Overused Dialogue

©Dawn Rachel Carrington - All Rights Reserved




It’s often too easy for mystery and suspense writers to fall back on overused and obvious dialogue just to fill the empty spaces or because the writer isn’t sure what the medical examiner is supposed to say at that point in the story. You’ve heard a character say it on a police procedural so it must be right. Unfortunately, though, right doesn’t always mean it belongs in your novel.


How many times have we heard “I’ll know more after the autopsy” from a medical examiner on a television show? Sound familiar? It also sounds trite and obvious. After all, of course a medical examiner will know more after he/she can perform the autopsy. Otherwise, he/she would not be needed for the advancement of the plot.


How about “it looks like we have a homicide”? If there’s a dead body at his/her feet with a gunshot wound, there isn’t any need for your detective character to let the reader know there’s been a homicide. That body does the job well enough.


When writing a novel, there’s no reason to take your reader on a step by step journey through every aspect of a crime nor is there any reason for all of your characters to announce their job duties. When you introduce the medical examiner, readers know it’s that character’s job to autopsy the body and discover the cause of death.


Obvious dialogue can be something as simple as your character saying “you scared me” after she’s already screamed, or the doctor saying “I’ll have more answers for you after the blood work” as he’s already called a nurse in to take your blood. And while this type of dialogue can work in certain situations, sometimes, if you don’t really have anything for your character to say, then perhaps it’s because they don’t need to say anything.


If you’re writing a cop drama or utilizing a cop in your story at all, you want to be especially careful not to wade into television territory. Anyone who’s watched NYPD Blue or Law & Order knows the lingo, but that doesn’t mean it belongs in your book. Sometimes, in fact, it can make you look lazy, especially if it’s an oft-used phrase like “he lawyered up”, meaning he asked for a lawyer or “she’s in the wind”, meaning your female perpetrator is on the run.


There are many more instances of overused dialogue that will make a reader roll his or her eyes which doesn’t bode well for a potential review. Exasperate or annoy a reader, and you could be looking at a low rating on any number of online book venues.


Once you’ve finished your book, do a thorough search for dialogue you’ve heard before. Ask yourself if it’s necessary dialogue. It might be difficult to lose some of those words you really want to keep, but, in the long run, your book (and your readers) will be better for it.



About the author:Dawn Carrington is the editor-in-chief for Vinspire Publishing. A multi-published author of fantasy and suspense novels, she frequently writes for magazines such as The Writer’s Journal, The Writer, and The Independent.
To learn more about Dawn or Vinspire Publishing, please visit or








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