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Dialogue: More Than Just a Conversation!

Person A:

“Hi! Good morning!”

Person B:

“Hello. How are you?”

Person A:

“I’m doing just great! The weather is so beautiful for a Fall day! How are you feeling?”

Person B:

“I’m stressed about work, and I wish I could go outside at some point…”

The sentences you just read above are a few examples of dialogue. Dialogue is used as a way for two or more characters to communicate. However, a good writer can use their dialogue to communicate between characters AND communicate ideas to their audience!

In this post, we will analyze the different uses of dialogue: dialogue for communication, dialogue for character development, dialogue for plot, and dialogue for exposition.

Dialogue for Communication

Dialogue is a conversation between two or more characters. Like speaking in real life, dialogue is dynamic, quick, and demonstrates knowledge or lack of knowledge. In the example above, Person A and Person B are saying hello, asking questions, and revealing information to each other. However, good dialogue also includes other subtle traits!

Dialogue for Character Development

Character development refers to a writer’s attempt to “flesh out” a character and provide them with identifiable traits. Through dialogue, a skilled writer would be able to make it clear about how a character acts through their words instead of simply telling the reader.

For example, instead of writing that “Person B is a serious and sad person,” the example above suggests their personality through their conversation with Person A. When Person A says hello very happily and chipper, Person B replies much more formally. While Person A responds excitedly and positively, Person B replies somberly and pessimistically. The back and forth between these two gives us a good idea of character traits because of the way they speak!

Dialogue for Plot

A plot is the sequence of events that happen throughout a story. For example, in Little Red Riding Hood, the plot unfolds like this:

Red Riding Hood decides to visit her grandma -> She goes into the forest -> She reaches Grandma’s house -> she is tricked by the Wolf -> she is saved by The Woodsman.

But writing a story requires more than just writing out a timeline! Using dialogue is key to keep a plot moving.

With dialogue, a writer can reveal key information to the readers AND the characters who are speaking. When Little Red Riding Hood tells the wolf “What big teeth you have…” and the wolf responds with “All the better to eat you with!”, a reader learns that the wolf is trying to eat Red, AND Red learns that the wolf is masquerading as her grandma!

Dialogue for Exposition

Exposition refers to when a writer wishes to insert information of the narrative’s backstory. This can be done through description in the text, or through dialogue.

In the example above, Person A makes mention of the fact that it is a nice day in the Fall. Person B then reveals that they are working. Good exposition should allude to something the reader might not know but that the characters DO know.

Just like in a normal conversation, we do not include all the specific details of everything we refer to. Instead, a good writer should be able to drop necessary details here and there through their dialogue.


About the Author: Jake Berry is a recent English graduate from the University of Maryland. In his spare time, Jake can be found lifting weights, playing video games, or going for walks with his fluffy dog Penny. For now Jake is trying to figure out the next chapter of his life, post-grad!


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