Light up your plot with dialogue


If you’re a writer, then chances are you’re a reader. And if you’re a reader, then you know that when you are moving your way through a novel, it’s always great fun to land on a section of dialogue.


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Dialogue between characters can be illuminating for readers, letting them see how characters bond or even conflict.

Those spoken interactions also give readers a clue into a character’s speech patterns and verbal idiosyncrasies that define his or her history and personality.

Read: Writing commandment: Know thy audience

Dialogue can also offer readers a brief respite from the rigors of long sections of descriptive prose where we can sometimes find ourselves drifting from the story.

And finally, dialogue can relay important information to the characters and readers and briskly move a slogging narrative forward when the plot is slow or simmering.

Read: Speed writing will deliver fast results

So, when should dialogue be used sparingly? One common mistake is to use spoken communication among characters as a means to actually tell the story. Not so terrible, right? Except our job as writers is to show the plot developing; not simply speak it through the mouths of our characters. It’s important that we allow the characters to experience the story as it is happening whenever possible.

Read: Branch out: Write what you know and beyond

Another possible drawback of dialogue is if the author fails to make the communication genuine. Characters must speak and interact as real people do. Sounds easy, but it can be a challenge to accurately simulate a real conversation among fictional beings. The words they speak must be authentic, distinct from each other and real.

Read: Go ahead — break some writing rules

Finally, sometimes writers overdo it when adding action into their dialogue tags.

For example, you could write: “‘I love you,’ she said with wild abandon.”

But, this would be better: “She flung her arms around his neck and pulled him close. ‘I love you,’ she said.”

Dialogue, when used appropriately and carefully timed, can be a valuable tool for every writer who strives to advance his story’s narrative. And it’s a great way of keeping readers engaged and dialed in.

Kerri S. Mabee is managing editor at and founder of Breeze Media & Communications. Learn more about her at

Kerri S. Mabee

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