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How to Develop Dialogue in Your Novel

Updated on January 24, 2015
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.


Dialogue is an extremely important part of a book. There are some books that have little to no dialogue, but the vast majority depend on it to help carry the story. But dialogue is not something that can just be thrown together. You have to understand dialogue and get it right, or the story just won't go anywhere.

What is Dialogue?

Dialogue is the speech between people.

"John, where were you last night?"

"I was at work."

"Did you see Abby? Was she there?"

The above is an example of dialogue. It is what you would have heard if the characters were there in front of you. Dialogue is verbal interaction between characters. It is a huge part of the story.


The Purpose of Dialogue

Dialogue does a lot. It is not just talking. It is a view into the soul of the character as well as a driver of the plot.

  • Character of the Character - A lot can be learned about someone by the way they talk. The same is said about a character in a book. You can tell from their words if they are kind, vindictive, friendly, or devious. The dialogue gives you a little insight into their true character.
  • Hints to Plot - Through dialogue, characters can help give hints to plot. It could be a phrase that gets the reader thinking differently. Through dialogue, you can find the killer, get hints to the location of the treasure, and rule out potential lovers.
  • Background - Dialogue is a way to get background information on a character, a location, or an issue. You can determine relationships, educational levels, and where a person is from.

How Dialogue Should Sound

Dialogue should sound natural. It needs to sound like the character you have created is really saying it. It needs to be believable.

  • A teen has to sound like a teenager.
  • A housewife in the 1950s cannot sound like a woman in the 21st century.
  • A six year old should not talk like an eighty-year old man.
  • A drug addict on the street should not sound like a Yale professor giving a lecture.

Enhancing Dialogue

The dialogue I showed you earlier was just dialogue. It says a lot, but it can say so much more. You can easily enhance dialogue by describing the dialogue.

When someone is actually talking, their tone, their facial expressions, and their body language says more than the words. You need to show all that in words. Let's look at this more closely.

"What is that?"

It could be anything. It could be asked in passing. It could be asked with worry or a nonchalant attitude. There is so many ways this question can be interpreted.

Try this:

"What is that?" he pointed at the box.

Now you know that 'that' is a box and someone is curious.

Here is another.

"What is that?" Her nose wrinkled.

'That' is most likely a smell now. Her nose is wrinkling. It obvious is not a good smell.

Try this.

"What is that?" he screamed as he pointed into the sky.

Something is not normal as the guy is seeing something in the sky. We're still not sure if the scream is a good one or of fear, but we have a better ideas.

She how dialogue can take a whole new meaning with a little enhancement?


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    • Jen Card profile image

      Jen Card 5 years ago

      Thank you so much, great start of information and tips!

    • profile image

      rhomy 5 years ago

      Useful and interesting!

    • profile image

      BK Walker 5 years ago

      Wonderful tips :)