Ready to captivate readers, write great stories and attract the attention of agents and publishers?

WRITING GREAT DIALOGUE is a detailed, comprehensive, online master class presented by award-winning novelist and writing teacher, Joan Dempsey.

Simple lessons with robust content and engaging assignments are designed to help you master the skill of writing great dialogue.

Elmore Leonard

"Readers do tend to skip through novels, but they won't skip dialogue. I'm very much aware in the writing of the dialogue ... of a rhythm. There has to be a rhythm with it, a beat ..."

Elmore Leonard
Begin whenever you wish, work at your own pace, on your own schedule and enjoy lifetime access—the class never closes once you're on the inside. Join us!

Why is it so important to write great dialogue?

  • GREAT DIALOGUE CAPTIVATES READERS. If a reader gets pulled in by your dialogue, chances are far better that she'll love your characters and want to follow them to the end of your story.
  • GREAT DIALOGUE MEANS GREAT STORY. Powerful dialogue isn't just about characters talking to each other, it's also about story! (And character, and theme, and setting, and tone.)
  • GREAT DIALOGUE ATTRACTS AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS. Even if other areas of your manuscript are still rough, great dialogue indicates that you've got what it takes to write a terrific book, and they're more apt to take a chance on you.

Mastering dialogue is the fastest, most powerful way to improve your manuscript.

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Take this course if ...

  • You love your characters (or your real people) but don't yet feel like they've come fully to life;
  • Your characters (or people) all sound exactly the same;
  • You love writing dialogue but aren't wild about your results;
  • You dread writing dialogue and want to start enjoying it;
  • Your beta-readers say your characters (or people) seem flat or lifeless;
  • You want to feel confident about what your characters say and how (and when) they say it;
  • You're not sure how much dialogue is too much and how much isn't enough.


The scope of this online course is laser-focused on one thing and one thing only: making sure you master the art and craft of writing great dialogue.

John Steinbeck

If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

John Steinbeck
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I highly recommend Joan Dempsey as a mentor to help aspiring authors produce publishable writing pieces. I will always be in her debt.

—Cheryl Abney

Joan’s input and advice has made me a far better writer. If you want a teacher who is honest, superb at her job, and kind as well, I unhesitatingly recommend Joan. She’s the best!

—Frances Barrett-Reed

As an instructor, Joan is present and active. Her online courses were well worth my time and money. They have been the best investment in strengthening my writing craft.

—Diana Rigor

I plan on continuing to go over all this material because it all has great value to me. This course has changed my writing forever. I really appreciate your guidance, Joan! 

—Scott Fowler

Thank you, Joan, for exponentially expanding the size of my "writer's toolbox." I'd highly recommend this course to others!

—Donna Schwender



7 Comprehensive Modules  |  2 Bonus Modules  |  42 Targeted Lessons




1 | Reveal Character

2 | Advance Story

3 | Reflect Theme

4 | Enhance Setting

5 | Amplify Tone


How to Write Natural, Fluid, Authentic Dialogue

When Dialogue is Unbelievable

Cut Out Useless Talk

What’s Emotional, and What’s Overwrought?

Avoid “Know-It-All” Dialogue

Dialogue as Mouthpiece for Research

How Overwriting Can Deaden Dialogue


Make Dialogue Relevant to Your Story

How to Write Subtext

Pay Attention to What’s Said and What’s Unsaid

Use Action, Not Activity (and how to tell the difference)


Writing Characters Who Aren’t Like You

Effectively Incorporate Dialect, Foreign Language and Jargon

Resources for Writing Authentic Dialogue


Avoid Clichéd Language

The Power of Being Specific

Don’t Intrude on Your Character’s Voice

Be Clear, Not Convoluted

Active Versus Passive Dialogue

The Value of Lean Dialogue


Use Evocative Language

Body Language

The Value of Brevity

Dialogue Interrupted—Perfect the Pause

The Power of Silence

Emotional Dialogue that Resonates

Use Humor Effectively


When to Use Summary Exposition Instead of Dialogue

Have You Written Too Much Dialogue?

When and How to Interrupt Dialogue

The Challenges of Dialogue in Group Scenes

Reveal Backstory Through Dialogue


How to Manage Speech When Your Character is Alone

Conveying a Character’s Thoughts


Dialogue Tags (Attributions)

Choosing How Dialogue Appears on the Page

Tenses and Punctuation

Meg Cabot

Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.

Meg Cabot, American Author
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If you are a writer of fiction or creative non-fiction, are serious about becoming the best creative writer you can possibly be, and are excited about applying yourself so you can learn everything there is to know about writing great dialogue, this course is for you.

If you like to learn online, at your own pace, in your own time and in your own way with participants from all over the world, this course is for you.


If you believe your dialogue skills are already polished, or you aren't truly hungry to learn as much as you can about the craft of writing, or if you're writing something other than fiction or creative non-fiction, this course isn't for you.

If you prefer to learn in a physical classroom rather than online, and want your class to be on a set schedule with all other students physically present when you are, then this course isn't for you.

PLUS ...



You'll get personalized feedback on your own writing from Joan Dempsey, award-winning author and writing teacher, who will respond to every one of your comments and completed assignments.

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Cheryl Abney

Applying Joan Dempsey’s teachings, my short stories were selected two years in a row (2016, 2017) for the Florida Writers Association Collection. As her student, I have always been appreciative and fully satisfied as the recipient of her knowledge, expertise, and dedication. I respectfully credit and thank Joan for sharing her ability to cut and polish manuscripts, create great dialogue, and produce quality work. I highly recommend Joan Dempsey as a mentor to help aspiring authors produce publishable writing pieces. I will always be in her debt.

Cheryl Abney
Frances Barrett-Reed

One of Joan’s outstanding skills is she cuts to the heart of the issues in one’s writing but does it in such a way that inspires and empowers you to get it right. For instance, I didn’t know until I worked with Joan that my characters were flat and sounded exactly alike! Joan helped me breathe life into my people by pointing out how each individual can be recognized by their speech patterns, and how written dialogue is different, and needs to be sharper, than the normal spoken word. Strong dialogue, along with her other suggestions for character development, helped me make huge improvements to my novel. Joan’s input and advice has made me a far better writer. If you want a teacher who is honest, superb at her job, and kind as well, I unhesitatingly recommend Joan. She’s the best!

Frances Barrett-Reed
Diana Rigor

I recommend Joan Dempsey’s writing courses to any writer wanting to better their craft. Designed for adult learners, her lessons and exercises are directly applicable to improving your writing today. As an instructor, Joan is present and active. Her online revision courses were well worth my time and money. They have been the best investment in strengthening my writing craft.

Diana Rigor


Click on each icon to learn more.

Because some learners preferring reading to anything else, you always have an option to read a transcript instead of watching the video. Scroll down to the bottom of each lesson to find the downloads section, where you'll find a written transcript of the full lesson.

Since this is a writing class, of course you'll have an opportunity to write! If you complete the written assignments, you'll be more apt to cement the learning in your mind. If you choose to post your response to the assignments, you may or may not get comments from other participants on what you've written, but I will read and respond to all the comments just as soon as I'm able.

There are a number of videos in this course, all of which have closed captions attached to them. As always, if you'd prefer to listen or read, both audio and full transcripts are available in the downloads section at the bottom of each lesson.

Because so many learners like to learn on the go, you're always welcome to download the audio-only version of each lesson and listen from your phone or tablet. You'll find downloadable audio in the downloads section at the bottom of each lesson.

Nearly every lesson has a discussion section attached to it, where you can review other participants' work (a great way to enhance your learning), share your own, and get and provide feedback if you wish. Please note that there is no requirement for giving or receiving feedback, so you may or may not get a response from other participants to what you post. That said, please know that I do read every comment, and will respond just as quickly as I'm able. Writing comments has value in the sheer act of writing, too, because it gives you a chance to reflect on what you're learning, a sure way to make the learning stick.

  • The manner in which you've presented the information, Joan, is one of the most valuable parts of this course for me. Flipping back through the lessons, I realize that it's all there in bite-size, manageable chunks for me to refer back to as needed. As an admitted "dialogue dodger," that leaves me feeling much more confident in being able to conquer my self-imposed stumbling block. I'm actually looking forward to revisiting my works in progress to see how I can incorporate more dialogue. That alone is HUGE!!!

    I'm sincerely committed to using EACH of the new tools you've provided me with. Thank you, Joan, for exponentially expanding the size of my "writer's toolbox." I'd highly recommend this course to others!
    Name Donna Schwender







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100% money back guarantee within 15 days. 

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Octavia Butler

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.

Octavia Butler


Here Are the Most Frequently Asked Questions

  • q-iconWhere does the course take place and when does it begin?

    The course takes place entirely online and can be accessed from a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or phone. Once you enroll, you can start immediately on the day the class opens, or whenever it’s convenient for you. Nothing is on a set schedule, and you have lifetime access, so start whenever you wish and proceed at your own pace.

  • q-iconDo I have to participate at specifically scheduled times?

    No, you don’t! The course is completely asynchronous, which means you can participate at any time you wish, when it’s convenient for you! No worries about scheduling, or living in different time zones. You have access to the full course at all times, and there’s no end date, so come on back whenever you wish.

  • q-iconHow long do I have to complete the course?

    As long as you’d like. Work whenever you wish, whether two in the morning or one in the afternoon. It’s entirely up to you. You’ll have lifetime access to the course, so you can revisit the content at any time.

  • q-iconDo I have to complete the assignments?

    It’s entirely up to you. The proven way to truly master your learning, however, is for you to apply what you’re learning by completing the assignments. If you don’t, you’re short-changing yourself. The assignments have been specifically designed with your learning in mind—complete them and you’ll master new skills, leave them out and you won’t. It’s that simple.

  • q-iconWho facilitates the course?

    I, Joan Dempsey, am your guide. I’m an award-winning author and writing teacher with advanced degrees in both from Antioch University Los Angeles. I love working with writers and I’ll be with you every step of the way during your course.

  • q-iconWhen can I interact with Joan?

    I will always be monitoring your progress, commenting when I can on your work in the comments section, and be available via e-mail to respond your questions, comments, or suggestions. I’m on US Eastern time and will be checking in numerous times a day, Monday through Thursday, to see what you’re up to. (Friday I focus entirely on my own writing.)

  • q-iconI'm not that computer savvy - is the course hard to navigate?

    No. Ruzuku has designed an online learning environment that’s streamlined and simple to navigate. Ruzuku has helpful and friendly online support, and I can also help if you run into trouble. Complicated tech stuff can be frustrating, so the course design is deliberately simple. So far all participants have easily managed. That said, if you are not adept at all with email and the internet, you might find it difficult to learn online.

  • q-iconIs the course accessible to people of all abilities?

    Mostly, yes. I do my best to make sure there are both audible and visual options available for every lesson. Videos have closed captions, text has audio download options, and transcripts of each lesson are included. If you are visually challenged, you’ll need to use your own methods for accessing my emails and the comments within the Ruzuku system, since I have no way to provide audio versions for those things, much as I’d like to. I’m always open to suggestions about how to improve accessibility.

  • q-iconWill I interact with other participants?

    You bet! Learning from each other is as important a part of your learning experience as working with me. There are a variety of settings for getting notified about activity in the course so you won’t miss a thing.

    That said, some of the courses end up with hundreds of participants, and in that case I deliberately design the curriculum so you can participate without getting overwhelmed by overcrowded discussions. I will read every comment, but you can choose how or if you want to participate in discussions. Nothing worse that feeling deluged, so I make sure you don’t have to experience that.

    You have total control over how you get notified about new activity in the course, too, so you can control how much e-mail you receive. No sense crashing your in-box!

  • q-iconI'm Not Sure I Can Take the Course Right Now—Will You Offer It Again?

    I never know exactly when I’ll be offering the course again, or if I’ll be offering it again. I work alone and make my own schedule, so there are times when I’ll set my teaching work aside to focus on my own writing, and times when I want to do something new and I develop a new online class and ditch the older ones. That means I can’t predict if or when the course will become available again. If you’re okay with the risk of missing out, don’t enroll now.

    But if you don’t want to miss out, sign up right now and don’t begin the class until you’re good and ready, a week from now or six months from now; that’s the beauty of “lifetime access!” If you’re too busy right now, sign up anyway and start when it makes the most sense for you. You’ll still get every single benefit from the class, and I’ll still provide you with personalized feedback on your work.

  • q-iconI'm on a limited income - do you have scholarships or discounts?

    I don’t. The price of this course has been set to be as reasonable for you as possible while still allowing me fair compensation (I’m a sole proprietor and a working writer). Compared to similar online courses, my prices are more than fair. I offer payment plan options, which allow you to pay reasonable installments over time (great for cash flow issues).

  • q-iconWhat if I don't like the class? Can I get my money back?

    Yes! If, within 15 days of paying tuition for the class, you discover it’s not for you, simply email me ([email protected]) to request a refund and I’ll give you 100% of your money back, no questions asked.

Have more questions?

Email Joan.

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