Dialogue is the conversation between characters. It is easiest to limit a conversation between two people. Each speaker has a separate line with dialogue enclosed in quotes.
If more than two people are in the conversation, “tags” such as “she said” or a name must be used to identify the speaker so the reader doesn’t become confused. Use said or asked most of the time. Tags can be eliminated if the character is described doing something before or after speaking.
By using gestures with the dialogue, the writer shows the reader how the characters feel. Use sharp action verbs to show what the speaker is doing.
The constant advice to “show not tell” is in this element. Avoid adverbs.
For example, “I want to leave,” she said angrily is telling the reader how she felt. Angrily is an adverb.
Instead show the emotion. She pounded her fists against his chest. “I want to leave.”
Internal dialogue or thoughts from a character’s point of view do not need she thought he didn’t like her. Instead just say what she is thinking. The reader is in her mind. “He didn’t like her. He didn’t even say good-bye.”
Through internal thoughts and gestures the reader understands the mood and feelings of the character and emphasizes important moments in the story.
Dialogue has a purpose. It should advance the plot, reveal character traits, and build tension in the story. It can be dramatic, informative, or add humor to the situation.
Dialogue reveals facts in an interesting way. Along with the dialogue, the writer describes actions and reactions to what is spoken. Other character’s comments reveal hidden feelings or reveal something about the protagonist if the story is told from his point of view. He can’t see how he looks except in a mirror. Others can describe him or reveal feelings. “Why are you nervous?” or “You don’t look well.”
The character’s personality should be revealed through dialogue, and each person has a distinct voice, whether they are angry, kind, sarcastic, or comforting. This aids the reader in knowing who is speaking. It can be a repetitive phrase, cracking a joke, speaking intellectually, or saying something stupid, cruel, or insulting to set the speaker apart from the other characters.
Don’t run dialogue longer than three sentences and break up the dialogue with thoughts or actions. Remind the reader who is talking if the dialogue is long.
In a mystery, dialogue reveals what the detective has discovered or his thoughts on whom the killer may be.
In a romance, dialogue can reveal feelings, hide true feelings, or cause misunderstandings.
Dialogue can foreshadow events to come. A character can predict the outcome. They may be correct in predicting the ending or the opposite may result. Scarlett in Gone With The Wind declares she will never love Rhett Butler, but she confesses her love in the end.