How To Write Dialogue In A Story (With Examples)
One of the biggest mistakes made by writers is how they use dialogue in their stories. Today, we are going to teach you how to write dialogue in a story using some easy and effective techniques. So, get ready to learn some of the best techniques and tips for writing dialogue!
There are two main reasons why good dialogue is so important in works of fiction. First, good dialogue helps keep the reader interested and engaged in the story. Second, it makes your work easier to write, read and understand. So, if you want to write dialogue that is interesting, engaging and easy to read, keep on reading. We will be teaching you the best techniques and tips for writing dialogue in a story.
- What is dialogue?
- 20 Tips For Formatting Dialogue in Stories
- How to Write Dialogue in 5 Steps
What is dialogue?
Dialogue is the spoken words that are spoken between the characters of a story. It is also known as the conversation between the characters. Dialogue is a vital part of a story. It is the vehicle of the characters’ thoughts and emotions. Good dialogue helps show the reader how the characters think and feel. It also helps the reader better understand what is happening in the story. Good dialogue should be interesting, informative and natural.
Internal vs External Dialogue
In a story, dialogue can be expressed internally as thoughts, or externally through conversations between characters. A character thinking to themself would be considered internal dialogue. Here there is no one else, just one character thinking or speaking to themselves:
Mary thought to herself, “what if I can do better…”
While two or more characters talking to each other in a scene would be an external dialogue:
“Watch out!” cried Sam.
“What’s wrong with you?” laughed Kate.
Direct vs Indirect Dialogue
In most cases, the words spoken by your character will be inside quotation marks. This is called direct dialogue. And then everything outside the quotation marks is called narrative:
“What do you want?” shrieked Penelope as she grabbed her notebooks.
“Oh, nothing… Just checking if you needed anything,” sneered Peter as he tried to peek over at her notes.
Indirect dialogue is a summary of your dialogue. It lets the reader know that a conversation happened without repeating it exactly. For example:
She was still fuming from last night’s argument. After being called a liar and a thief, she had no choice but to leave home for good.
Direct dialogue is useful for quick conversations, while indirect dialogue is useful for summarising long pieces of dialogue. Which otherwise can get boring for the reader. Writers can combine both types of dialogue to increase tension and add drama to their stories.
Now you know some of the different types of dialogue in stories, let’s learn how to write dialogue in a story.
20 Tips For Formatting Dialogue in Stories
Here are the main tips to remember when formatting dialogue in stories or works of fiction:
- Always use quotation marks: All direct dialogue is written inside quotation marks, along with any punctuation relating to that dialogue.
- Don’t forget about dialogue tags: Dialogue tags are used to explain how a character said something. Each tag has at least one noun or pronoun, and one verb indicating how the dialogue is spoken. For example, he said, she cried, they laughed and so on.
- Dialogue before tags: Dialogue before the dialogue tags should start with an uppercase. The dialogue tag itself begins with a lowercase.
- Dialogue after tags: Both the dialogue and dialogue tags start with an uppercase to signify the start of a conversation. The dialogue tags also have a comma afterwards, before the first set of quotation marks.
- Lowercase for continued dialogue: If the same character continues to speak after the dialogue tags or action, then this dialogue continues with a lowercase.
- Action after complete dialogue: Any action or narrative text after completed dialogue starts with an uppercase as a new sentence.
- Action interrupting dialogue: If the same character pauses their dialogue to do an action, then this action starts with a lowercase.
- Interruptions by other characters: If another character Interrupts a character’s dialogue, then their action starts with an uppercase on a new line. And an em dash (-) is used inside the quotation marks of the dialogue that was interrupted.
- Use single quotes correctly: Single quotes mean that a character is quoting someone else.
- New paragraphs equal new speaker: When a new character starts speaking, it should be written in a new paragraph.
- Use question marks correctly: If the dialogue ends with a question mark, then the part after the dialogue should begin with a lowercase.
- Exclamation marks: Similar to question marks, the next sentence should begin with a lowercase.
- Em dashes equal being cut off: When a character has been interrupted or cut off in the middle of their speech, use an em dash (-).
- Ellipses mean trailing speech: When a character is trailing off in their speech or going on and on about something use ellipses (…). This is also good to use when a character does not know what to say.
- Spilt long dialogue into paragraphs: If a character is giving a long speech, then you can split this dialogue into multiple paragraphs.
- Use commas appropriately: If it is not the end of the sentence then end the dialogue with a comma.
- Full stops to end dialogue: Dialogue ending with a full stop means it is the end of the entire sentence.
- Avoid fancy dialogue tags: For example, ‘he moderated’ or ‘she articulated’. As this can distract the reader from what your characters are actually saying and the content of your story. It’s better to keep things simple, such as using he said or she said.
- No need for names: Avoid repeating your character’s name too many times. You could use pronouns or even nicknames.
- Keep it informal: Think about how real conversations happen. Do people use technical or fancy language when speaking? Think about your character’s tone of voice and personality, what would they say in a given situation?
Remember these rules, and you’ll be able to master dialogue writing in no time!
How to Write Dialogue in 5 Steps
Dialogue is tricky. Follow these easy steps to write effective dialogue in your stories or works of fiction:
Step 1: Use a Dialogue Outline
A dialogue outline is a draft of what your characters will say before you actually write the dialogue down. This draft can be in the form of notes or any scribblings about your planned dialogue. Using your overall book outline, you can pinpoint the areas where you expect to see the most dialogue used in your story. You can then plan out the conversation between characters in these areas.
A good thing about using a dialogue outline is that you can avoid your characters saying the same thing over and over again. You can also skim out any unnecessary dialogue scenes if you think they are unnecessary or pointless.
Here is an example of a dialogue outline for a story:
You even use a spreadsheet to outline your story’s dialogue scenes.
Step 2: Write down a script
In this step, you will just write down what the characters are saying in full. Don’t worry too much about punctuation and the correct formatting of dialogue. The purpose of this step is to determine what the characters will actually say in the scene and whether this provides any interesting information to your readers.
Start by writing down the full script of your character’s conversations for each major dialogue scene in your story. Here is an example of a dialogue script for a story:
Step 3: Edit & review your script
Review your script from the previous step, and think about how it can be shortened or made more interesting. You might think about changing a few words that the characters use to make it sound more natural. Normally the use of slang words and informal language is a great way to make dialogue between characters sound more natural. You might also think about replacing any names with nicknames that characters in a close relationship would use.
The script might also be too long with plenty of unnecessary details that can be removed or summarised as part of the narration in your story (or as indirect dialogue). Remember the purpose of dialogue is to give your story emotion and make your characters more realistic. At this point you might also want to refer back to your character profiles, to see if the script of each character matches their personality.
Step 4: Sprinkle in some narrative
Once your script has been perfected, you can add some actions to make your dialogue feel more believable to readers. Action or narrative is the stuff that your characters are actually doing throughout or in between dialogue. For example, a character might be packing up their suitcase, as they are talking about their holiday plans. This ‘narrative’ is a great way to break up a long piece of dialogue which otherwise could become boring and tedious for readers.
Step 5: Format your dialogue
You have now planned your dialogue for your story. The final step is to incorporate these dialogue scenes into your story. Remember to follow our formatting dialogue formatting rules explained above to create effective dialogue for your stories!
That’s all for today! We hope this post has taught you how to write dialogue in a story effectively. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below!