Dialogue What is dialogue?
Dialogue is a conversation
between two or more people
as a feature of a
book, play or film.
Other words used to describe dialogue
are conversation, talk, communication,
speech, chat and interchange.
In your story, dialogue
must appear
between what are known as
inverted commas (quotation marks).
They look like this “ ”
and immediately identify a
place in the story where
people are talking.
What powers does dialogue have?
Scene setting:
“We need to get out of
here before they get back,”
she whispered, terrified.
“I came here to find
out the truth,
I wish I never had…”
Emotion indicators:
Fear, anger, sadness, surprise,
disgust, shame, envy etc…
For example; Take two emotions –
Anger and Pity – and use them to create a
conversation between two people...
ANGER: “How dare you treat me like
that?” she screamed.
PITY: “I’m sorry that you feel that way,
but I am doing this for your own good.”
ANGER: “My own good? I don’t need your
pity – stay away from me.”
PITY: “But you do, and if I’d pitied you
sooner you might not be in
this mess…”
Personality display: Sarcastic, funny,
dry, grumpy… You don’t need to say that
your character is grumpy if you display
this through his dialogue. It should be
obvious to the reader by the things that
he says, that he is in a grumpy humour.
Pace: Instead of having to walk the
reader through everything, dialogue
can explain a lot. An outburst can be
demonstrated by one character saying to
another, “You’ve never dealt with your
brother’s death, it’s been three years –
you have to move on.”
The death need not be explained –
in fact, leaving it unexplained creates
an air of mystery that you can feed
into the story…
It will also require spelling differently,
perhaps phonetically which is the art
of writing the sounds of speech.
So, more often than not, it is
best to avoid.
What is dialogue’s job?
- To provide relevant information
- To create atmosphere
- To enhance flow
- To sound natural
Remember: properly written dialogue
has no need for “I said,” “he said” or
“she said” after every sentence. It also
benefits greatly from a little description
to complement the conversation.
Both will work to provide further
information, move the story on and
enhance the pace.
Take the following two
paragraphs for example.
You will notice that the second
version is a lot easier
and quicker to read,
despite the fact that it doesn’t
actually use fewer words…
“I’m hungry,” said Tom.
“Get yourself a snack from the fridge,”
said Mum. “I don’t want a snack,
I want my dinner,” said Tom.
“Don’t be cheeky,” said Mum.
“I’m sorry,” said Tom.
“That’s ok, but ask politely
next time,” said Mum.
“Ok, can I have my
dinner please?” said Tom.
“Not yet,” said Mum.
“I’m hungry,” said Tom.
“Get yourself a snack
from the fridge,” Mum answered.
“I don’t want a snack, I want my dinner.”
“Don’t be cheeky.”
“I’m sorry,” Tom looked sheepish.
“That’s ok, but ask politely
next time.” “Ok, can I have my dinner
“Not yet!” Mum laughed, and
so Tom laughed too.
Once you have mastered dialogue,
it will further improve
your ability to write a story
with characters that
your reader will connect
with more easily.
To practice your dialogue writing
go to Week 2/Exercise Sheet 2.
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