Avoid mime conversations in dialogue

Dialogue in fiction ought to be tight and punchy, but sometimes when penning or editing it, writers go overboard. The result is a choppy flow to the narration as well as text that is robbed of its emotive powers.

This problem is known as mime conversation.

At first glance, such dialogue looks like it’s really ominous and significant. It’s all pretend, though.

Consider the following example of mime conversation: 

“But I heard what–”

“And that meant she would!”

“But…but…how could I have been–”

“Wrong? You weren’t. You just weren’t ri–”

“Of course. It’s all so clear to me now.”

But it’s probably not so clear to readers. That’s because the facts readers must know to understand what is meant are neither stated nor inferred. The convoluted flow of the characters’ statements even is laughable. The result is that the author robs the reader of the emotional conflict that is a key underpinning of good fiction.

CSFW’s David Smith coined the term.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.