I love dialogue. As a reader, I love to see the interaction between characters – especially enjoy a good witty exchange. As a writer, I think it’s one of my favorite portions of a book to write. I honestly think I enjoy writing it so much not because I’m that funny (cause I don’t think I am), but because I can come up with the clever responses that I wish I could think of that fast in real life.
But dialogue isn’t just about being witty, it can be used for so much more than that. Here’s what I like to use dialogue for with some examples from Andromeda’s Fall (my latest release):
I find it’s more organic and more interesting to reveal information through dialogue. How do we find out new information about other people or situations? Most often it’s through communication of some sort. In the below example, we find out that the heroine is asking for alsylum, that A.J. assumes she’s a nobody, that she’s pretty beat up, and that she’s possibly been ejected from her community. That’s a lot of information in one little exchange. “And why would we consider giving asylum to a little nobody like you?” A.J. asked. “One who – judging by those cuts, bruises, and I suspect a broken left arm – has been shunned by her own dare?”
Establish a Setting
Long descriptions of settings – while they can be poetically beautiful – can also lose the reader. And you don’t want to describe every room they walk into. Sometimes it’s better to establish the setting with a casual comment.
“Nice room. I like the view of the mountains,” Andie said, as she moved to look through the wide picture window.
Establish a Character/Relationship
This is a big one. Personality often comes out through dialogue. Details about their lives, backstory, looks, etc. also often come out in dialogue. The display and development of relationship can also happen. For example, in the exchange below, we assume the speakers of just met, we find out that Andie (our heroine) is good at breaking and entering, is on the sarcastic side, maybe a bit reckless, is confident, and possibly has something to hide.
“I’m not going to ask how you got in here. Clearly, our security needs reviewing.”
Andie didn’t betray her satisfaction at his comment. “I’m sure it’s fine. Very few measures would work to keep me out. Or in.”
“I found you.”
Andie merely shrugged. “Off night.” In more ways than one.
“What do you want here?” he asked.
“I want to speak with Jaxon Keller.”
His eyebrows shot up, and he crossed his arms over an impressive chest. “About what?”
“None of your damn business.” Andie’s chin tipped up slightly in defiance, but inwardly she cringed. Stop talking, dummy.
Deepen the Conflict/Heighten the Tension
You can use dialogue to introduce new situations, new dilemmas, and make the reader feel the nerves. You can also use it to make a conflict worse. Words can insight others to fight, or maybe your character says something they regret in the heat of the moment.
“Did the storm get worse?”
Andie’s eyes shifted from the window to A.J. “Talk to me. I’m a Commander, not some breakable doll.”
A small smile tugged at his lips. “The storm has passed, and it’s calm out there. It’s possible the weight of the snow took out our power.”
“Or I didn’t put enough gas in the generator when I started it up today.”
“But you don’t think so?”
There are many other uses for dialogue in writing. These are just some of my favorites. When I read, especially if I’m reading fast, I often skip to the dialogue parts because I’ve frequently felt them to be the most interesting and often the most important. What’s your favorite part about dialogue?