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Creative Writing – DIALOGUE – by S.A. Barone

image retrieved from http://www.conversationagent.com 3-15-11

by S.A. Barone

Dialogue is a conversational passage in a narrative used to advance the plot or develop the characters.  Dialogue is when the writer lets the reader listen in on a conversation between your characters.  Every character involved in your story will have a slightly different speaking style.

For the fiction writer, the challenge is to create dialogue that advances the plot and sounds realistic.  Dialogue is one of the most difficult aspects of writing.  There are many pitfalls a writer must try to avoid such as:

Dialogue that does not sound natural.

Dialogue that does not further the scene and does not deepen the readers understanding of the characters.

Modifiers, such as shouted, exclaimed, cried, whispered, stammered, and a million others can sometimes be useful, but sometimes modifiers used extensively can be annoying to readers.

The writer needs to start with strong characters with definite personalities.  How does each of your character’s talk?  The writer needs to ask several questions regarding their characters, for example:

What is the geographical background of your characters?  People from the South do not speak the same as people, say from Boston.  What age is your character, small child, teenager, old man?   What type of personality does your character have, nervous, aggressive, impulsive, silly, shy?  What’s your characters relationship with the character they are speaking with?  Your character wouldn’t talk to their teachers in the same way they would talk to their friends or their parents.

It’s a good idea when writing dialogue, to really listen to how people talk, not just what they say.  Eavesdrop on conversations when in an elevator, on a bus, in the line at a bank or supermarket.  Get to know your characters well.  Try saying their lines out loud.

Writer Robin Carr says, “Dialogue is a fantastic tool for enriching and enlivening your fiction.  In fiction the writer must depend more heavily on verbal communication, dialogue, because too much description, too much narrative about characters, is weighty and straining.”


Remember, Dialogue should tell the reader something about the character’s personality or emotion, or reinforce something already established.  Dialogue must propel the plot, so that the readers get to know the characters through the way they react to what directs and manipulates their lives.  Dialogue must individualize each character.

Until next time, keep reading and writing.

S. A. Barone

Shirley is a published children’s writer. She has publishing credits in Highlights for Children, Turtle, Children’s Playmate, Humpty Dumpty, and Chicken Soup for the Pre-teen Soul. Shirley  has won a Distinguished Meritorious Service Award from the California School Boards Association for authoring an elective program that was adopted in schools in the Western United States and in areas of New York City. To learn more about Shirley and her art, visit www.sabarone.com

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