Do you remember a specific favorite line of a movie or a book that you liked? Probably said by your favorite character in a movie, play or book. Well, that line is a dialogue.
“May the force be with you.” (Star Wars)
This dialogue is quite famous if you are a fan of the movie series – star wars. Chances are you don’t recognize the movie, being a millennial. But it was as huge as probably Harry Potter if a parallel must be drawn. Anyway, to come to the point- dialogues can become quite legendary and dialogue writing is quite an art. In this chapter, we are going to decipher this one by one and will use many fun examples.
Dialogues – Talk to Me
A dialogue is a verbal conversation between two or more people. When in writing, a dialogue is a way of showing a story instead of explaining one through writing. Through a dialogue, the writer allows the reader to know the characters first hand and interpret the characteristics and story themselves.
Dialogue writing exposes the traits of the character, emotions, internal motives at the same time it establishes the relationship between the people. Dialogue-writing also shows the actions taking place without boring the reader with a lot of explanations.
So while we are at it, let’s discuss how dialogues are written. First thing in grammar that is essential to dialogue-writing is punctuation. Commas, quotations, semi-colon, period, exclamation, question marks, apostrophe- all these punctuation marks portray the dialogue and its emotions. Let’s enlist all of them in detail:
First comes Grammar
If you get this right, the writing will not only be easier for the reader to understand, it will convey a clear message through the dialogue.
Quotes or quotation marks mark the beginning and end of a dialogue. For example – Nina told Barti, “My mom makes the best pasta in town!” Here, we can tell the exact line Nina said to Barti by looking at the sentence inside the quotation marks. Notice that the exclamation mark that is also part of the quotation marks shows the emotion or the tone it was said with.
Now what happens when the person speaking wants to tell something else another person spoke. In that case, we can use double quotation marks around person A’s dialogue and single quotation marks around person B’s dialogue. Person A is the speaker and person B is the one person A is speaking of.
“Dexter, her sister asked me, ‘What time is the game?’ Do you think we should take her along?”
While we are here, let’s also not forget that the way quotation marks are used in American English is slightly different. Apart from sentences that end in period and commas, everything else goes outside the quotation marks.
Use a period at the end of a sentence but always keep it inside of the quotation marks, unless it isn’t a part of the quotation. If the quotation is ending before the sentence is, we can use a comma inside the quotation marks instead of a period.
“May his soul rest in peace,” said Father.
Father said, “May his soul rest in peace.”
Well, first of all, a comma separates a dialogue from the rest of the sentence.
Tamera said to Adrienne, “My two-year-old son has started riding a cycle.”
This is quite simple: if it’s part of the dialogue, keep the question mark inside the quotations and if it’s not, just keep it outside the quotations.
“Will you come to the party?”, asked Jeena to Candice.
Do you think Aden was telling the truth when he said, “I finished my homework.”?
Whether it’s in the middle of a sentence or at the beginning, a dialogue always starts with a capital letter word. A dialogue tag like he said or she said may not be used everytime we use a dialogue. The quotation marks and the capitalization should be enough for that.
“Gina, will you pass me the spaghetti?
“Why, yes sir.”
Other Punctuation Rules in Dialogue Writing
- Even the punctuation goes inside the quotation marks.
- Use commas or periods after dialogue tags depending on where they are in the sentence.
- Always remember to capitalize the first word of what the person says.
- Start a new paragraph each time a person speaks.
Dialogue-writing: How to do it perfectly?
- Have a purpose for every single dialogue, a logical one. It might as well have an objective implication. For example, ask logical questions like – What does this say about my character? What characteristic am I painting with this dialogue? Is this dialogue moving the story?
- Try not overuse dialogues by writing dialogues that lead to no logical conclusions. Basically, keep filler dialogues as less as possible. The more interesting and information giving your dialogues are, the longer the reading span becomes of your dialogue.
- Use narration in between dialogues to abstain from stray dialogue-writing. Keep it short and simple. Create movement in the plot using actions and descriptions between dialogues.
- Keep it as real and closer to the characters as possible. Maintain the same theme or purpose throughout. Dialogues are supposed to feel real conversations. The less fake you make them, the better they sound.
- Convey a point through your dialogue-writing. Don’t repeat the same shade you painted in one dialogue into another. If you have established that A is tired, you can take another dimension to it instead of re-iterating directly the same point again and again.
- Keep the writing catchy and full of twists. Don’t forget the element of surprise is the backbone of good dialogue-writing. Try to keep the characters different, bring in one strong emotion every now and then to keep the dialogue-writing catchy and engaging. Make resonating points that the readers can relate to.
That brings us to the end of our chapter. Hope you enjoyed reading this one. Try and see if you could capture an interesting incident this week and channelize it into some dialogue-writing. Happy writing!
Solved Question for You
Identify the correct dialogue:
Jim: Are you going to the party tonight?
Tom: No, I don’t think so. I am not feeling too well.
Jim: Oh, __________
- I was sorry to hear you were sick.
- I am sorry to hear that, I hope you get well soon.
- Get well soon.
- I am truly sorry to receive news of your ill health.
Answer: B. I am sorry to hear that, I hope you get well soon.