Thursday, 20 September 2012 21:03

How to Make Dialogue Dynamic Featured

Written by
Rate this item
(0 votes)

In very simple terms, dialogue is the author’s way of sharing information without expressly telling the reader this information. Before going any further, keep in mind the following: first, start writing on a new line when a different character speaks. Second, you can use single or double inverted commas when writing dialogue. Whichever you choose, remain consistent throughout your novel.

The Functions of Dialogue

Dialogue has four main functions:

  • To progress the story. Every conversation must involve a crucial piece of information, fact or revelation that the reader needs to know.
  • To create excitement. Your aim should be to make your readers experience what the character experiences. For example, imagine if one of your characters says this: “Oh my God. We’re stuck in here. We’re all going to die soon.” Can you see how this dialogue will create the necessary tension to give the story a dangerous feel?
  • To tell your readers more about a character’s background. For instance, imagine that one of your characters says this: “We need to get that appointment with that famous surgeon, Mr. Smith, in London, old chap.” With the use of the words ‘old chap’ and ‘London’ you’re quite likely to assume that this man is English.
  • To give pace to a story. Dialogue allows you to convey large chunks of information in a concise manner. For instance, if your character barges into a flat and says, “What a dump!” the reader will understand that the flat is in a mess and untidy.

Believable and Realistic Dialogue

It’s not necessary to write exactly what people say to make dialogue authentic. When people speak, they tend to stutter and mumble. Such conversations, if transcribed, will make the dialogue appear rambling, repetitive and untidy. You must modify such speech so that the dialogue appears forceful, sharp and clean.

Should You Use Direct or Indirect Speech?

Direct speech means that the reader actually ‘hears’ the words the character speaks. Here’s an example: “I’m angry with you, Sally. How could you have criticised Mary?” John said.

Indirect speech means that the narrator will outline what has been said: ‘John said he was so angry with Sally and questioned why she criticised Mary.’

Naturally, direct speech has more impact, is more powerful and the preferred option for many writers. You should only use indirect speech to summarise huge chunks of information, when the information is inconsequential to the reader or the characters are repeating information already given to the reader.

Making Your Dialogue Dynamic

Dialogue can be made to appear dynamic by incorporating some of the ideas explained below:

  • Dialogue tags. Instead of common tags like, ‘he said,’ or ‘she said,’ you can try more dynamic ones like, ‘John added,’ or ‘Dorina interrupted’.
  • Slang. While slang might make your novel modern today, it will instantly date your story.
  • Swearing. The advice given to most aspiring authors is that they should only allow their characters to swear under the most extreme situations. Too much swearing and you may run the risk of upsetting your readers.

The suggestions made above are a guide to help you get started. When you have mastered the art of writing dynamic dialogue, your novel will become an exciting piece of work that will certainly be attractive to publishers.



  • Coulmas, Florian (Editor). Direct and Indirect Speech Mouton de Gruyter (1 April 1986)
  • Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. A&C Black (June 30, 2010)
  • Editors of Writer’s Digest Books. The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing: Everything You Need to Know About Creating & Selling Your Work. Writer’s Digest Books; 2 edition (August 22, 2010).

By Aneeta Sundararaj

This article was first published on Suite.101:

Click here to return to the index of Articles

Read 636 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 November 2021 19:25

Comments powered by CComment

Latest Posts

  • The Creative Industry Needs to Look at Things Differently Post Budget 2022
    On 29 October 2021, the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz tabled Budget 2022 in the Malaysian parliament. RM50 million has been allocated for the arts and culture industry. This comes after a year and a half after the entire industry came to an absolute standstill. With…
  • ‘The Covid Positives’ – life lessons learnt from the pandemic by Phanindra Ivatury
    After a long drawn battle with the biggest catastrophe in our living memory, global humanity is finally getting to see some quintessential ray of light at the end of the treacherous tunnel in the form of COVID-19 vaccines, currently being rolled out to all parts of the globe. A ‘COVID-19…
  • Chaos of Whole Books
    Is it possible to read several books at once? Aneeta Sundararaj finds out. When I was a child, my cousin used to boast that he could read four storybooks at a time. As an adult, when he invested in an e-Reader, he continued to boast that he could…
  • Writing for You? Or for Me?
    Writing for You? Or for Me? ‘You must always write with your reader in mind.’ This was one of the first pieces of advice that I received when I began my writing career. Honestly, I found this extremely hard to do because more often than not, I couldn’t picture my…
  • One Book That Changed My Writing Life
    My latest novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets was shortlisted for two categories in the Book Award 2020 organised by the National Library of Malaysia. When I reflected on the journey that this book has taken, I acknowledged the enormous influence of one of my all-time favourite books, Joseph Anton:…