Happy Friday, Writers! We made it! The weekend is here! I hope you had a very productive writing week. If you’ve been following along with us, you know that our Writing Word of the Week is Dialogue. On Wednesday we touched on the subject briefly and provided you with three dialogue prompts, today we are going to go further in depth into the importance of good dialogue in fiction.
Why is it important to have dialogue in your story?
Any work of fiction should reflect everyday life (or at least a fictitious version of it), and in everyday life people communicate with each other, typically engaging in conversation. Consequently, characters in fiction should communicate by speaking to each other.
But you can’t just throw any old conversation into your story. The dialogue must serve a purpose.
Dialogue Should Reveal Information About Characters and Their Relationships
The way a character speaks reveals a lot of information about them. Each character should have their own unique and distinctive voice, just as each person has their own unique way of communicating.
Good dialogue gives subtle hints to readers about the characters’ personalities, backgrounds and interests that will continue to develop throughout the story. Through dialogue the author can highlight characters’ most important characteristics. Readers can also learn about what kind of people the characters are, what their motives are, and what their role is within the story.
Characters should also evolve through dialogue. In fact, at least one character should undergo a change of mood within each dialogue sequence. Characters evolve and are defined through what they say and the tone in which they speak far more quickly and effectively than can be described by the narrator.
Dialogue is also one of the methods used to depict the way characters relate to each other. What they say, how they say it, and the tone in which they communicate provides us with a lot of information about their relationship with the character they are interacting with. Do they like each other, or perhaps love each other? Or are the arch-enemies? Are the close family members or newly acquainted? Dialogue can provide the reader with important clues. The way the characters speak to each other reveals most of what the reader needs to know about how they relate to each other with no need for the narrator to spell it out in a long exposition.
Dialogue Should Advance the Plot
Dialogue is also critical to plot advancement. Conversations between characters often provide significant moments of conflict or turning points. Dialogue allows the story to move forward in a more straight-forward way than a narrator’s long-winded explanation would. Use dialogue to increase suspense, to strengthen or weaken the protagonists’ resolve, or move them closer to their goal, or further away from it. If the dialogue achieves these goals, then it has moved the plot forward.
Dialogue Should Be Used as a Foreshadowing Method
Dialogue can also be used as a tool of foreshadowing. Your characters can have conversations that may be overlooked in the first reading but reveal that they held a greater significance later on around the climax of the plot-line. Foreshadowing in dialogue gives readers subtle hints about characters and events while paving the way for future action. One example of dialogue foreshadowing from my own books is in The Faithful Kiss, when Katelynn Wilder tells her best friend, “Bridget, you and your strange family are gonna be the death of me.”
Dialogue Should Be Used to Set the Scene and Provide Information
As characters talk to each other, the reader can learn about the setting of the story. The time period, the location of the action, and the driving conflicts can all be revealed through the dialogue between characters. While you don’t want lengthy descriptive dialogue, short lines with significant details can inform readers about the story’s world. Reading this dialogue can provide readers with information that is more meaningful coming from the characters themselves than a section of narrator prose.
For instance, if your story is set in the Southern regions of the United States the dialect and phrases that the characters use would be very different than if the story is set in England or Asian countries.
With dialogue the author can “show” what is happening instead of “telling” it. Dialogue can portray a scene vividly while breathing life into the characters. Dialogue enables readers have first-hand experiences and be direct witnesses of what is happening in the story.
Dialogue Should Change the Pace
Dialogue increases the story’s pace and makes it more dynamic. It will always be harder to read a whole paragraph where the narrator explains step by step the same things that dialogue can convey in a few lines. For example, when one of the characters suddenly shouts, “Duck!” the reader immediately knows there is danger incoming without the need of the narrator explaining in great detail that something is probably flying towards the character’s head.
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of good dialogue in your fiction writing.
If you would like to learn more about writing dialogue, I recommend the following books:
Have a great weekend, Writers! See you Monday for Motivation Monday.
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