What is Dialogue?
Dialogue is the action of characters speaking to each another.
Dialogue can be a simple conversation held by strangers in the street where only a few words are spoken, or a speech given by a teacher in front of the classroom, or even the sharing of secrets between friends at a slumber party. Dialogue is important because it reveals a piece of your character to the readers. How does your character speak? Do they use complete sentences? Are they polite when they talk? Do they listen to the other person or does the conversation always seem to lead back to them? All these questions can be answered each time your character speaks.
How to write Dialogue:
Think of the purpose of your character’s words. Every time your character speaks, the reader should learn something. Whether the dialogue reveals a clue in the story or the reader gets to see a new side of the character, the dialogue must help the story along. Think of the conversation you have with your teachers, parents, friends, siblings. Would you speak the same way to your principle as you would with your little sister? Probably not, and neither would your character. Would you jump up and down and talk excitedly if your Mom told you the family was taking a trip to Disney? So would your character. Would you get angry and yell if someone shouted mean things in your face? So would your character.
Be careful to show the emotions of your characters rather than tell them. Let the reader see how upset the character is instead of saying it. Also, don’t go crazy on describing how something is said. Don’t say, she yelled angrily, he moaned unhappily, she whispered excitedly. Most of the time simply saying she yelled, he moaned, she whispered, is plenty. Even better, stick with- he said, she said, they said. The reader doesn’t always need to know the emotion behind the words, they can usually tell by the context of the scene you have written. This lets the reader connect with the emotions of the story in their own personal way instead of being told by the writer how they should feel.
Unclear dialogue example:
The bell rang loudly, hurting their ears. Time to throw away their trash, lunch was over, class was starting.
“We are going to the movies, right?” Asked Sage, picking at her nail, the way she did whenever she was stuck waiting somewhere.
“No,” Maria said. “I’m going to be practicing for my recital.”
“But you said you would come with me to the movies,” Sage whined like a puppy by the door wanting to go for a walk.
“I can’t Sage, I have to practice.” Maria’s tone was firm, unfriendly, it hurt Sage.
“Forget it,” Sage swung her bag moodily onto her back. She would find someone else to go with.
They glared meanly at each other before heading off separately to class.
Clearer Dialogue Example:
The bell rang, signaling the end of lunch.
“Meet you at the theater at Seven?” Said Sage zipping up her bag.
“No,” Maria said. “I have to practice for my recital.”
“But you said you would come with me!” Sage insisted.
“Sage, I need to practice.”
“Forget it,” Ella swung her bag onto her back. She would find someone else to go with her.
They glared at each other before heading off to class.