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The Importance of Dialogue in Character Writing

Hello everybody! Last time, I shared one of my favorite writing tricks. This time, we will be diving into another element of writing I really love. The subject of this post is dialogue.

Dialogue can be defined as the depiction of verbal interaction between two characters. You will most often see text meant as dialogue to have quotation marks, “these” around them and dialogue tags to signify who is saying it:

“These,” said Tommy

What puts the ‘dia’ in dialogue though is having two different characters conversing:

“What did you get?” asked James.

“These,” said Tommy.

Without the conversation aspect, you would instead be creating something called ‘monologue’.

Dialogue can very often be used to tell the reader who’s going to go where or do what without having to pause the narrative. Say you’re writing about a team of construction workers building a skyscraper and you want to tell the reader that a character grabbed some tools. Just saying, ‘Tommy grabbed and brought some tools’ is straight forward, but it isn’t vary engaging.

“Tommy,” hollered James, “bring me a screwdriver.”

“Sure thing,” said Tommy, before leaving and returning with tool in hand.

“Here you go.”

Using dialogue does more to put the reader in the situation, engaging them in the scenario you’ve created and making the chain of events more active.

Dialogue isn’t only good for conveying basic information in a more palatable way however, I would argue that it’s most important use, is the conveyance of character. The way people talk is one of the most important facets of how we discern their personalities, so expect your readers to do the same when exploring your story. Let’s say Tommy is very intimidated by James. We can convey that tension through the dialogue like this:

“Tommy,” Hollard James.

“Eh-y-yeah?” said Tommy.

“Get me a screwdriver, will ya?”

“Sure thing, boss! Sure-sure thing!”

Through the stuttering and tripping over of words, its immediately apparent that Tommy is on his toes, and without contradicting information, the reader can only discern that James is somehow the source of that stress.

An important aspect of creating good dialogue is making believable dialogue. How do people talk in real life? If you can emulate the way people talk and apply that way of talking to your characters, the believability of said characters will skyrocket.

A good conversational tendency to apply in dialogue is that big declarations don’t occur in the beginning and are often rare in most conversations. Say you want to depict a teenager asking to go with his hesitant father to do something dangerous. Someone unfamiliar with writing dialogue would probably come out the gate with a long paragraph from the teenager saying they want to go and a dissertation as to why it’s a good idea. It would be much more engaging to structure it as a back and forth.

“I want to come with,” said the son.

“You’re better off here,” shot down the father.

“No, I wouldn’t. I—”

“Yes, you would.”

“Dad, come on. You’ll need help!”

“I’ll have help.”

“More help than that!”

“Stop. You. Are. Staying. Here!”

Very little is plainly said here, but the amount of information one can discern is far greater and more important than a boring diatribe in quotations will give you.

Let me leave you with the most important thing to consider; never get too set in your ways. Keeping your eyes open for new ways of writing dialogue will ensure that you never limit your skill, as the biggest cap to your capabilities is false certainty. Can’t wait till next time!

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