Character Dialogue – How to use it

Character dialogue is something that many new writers struggle to get right – but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to use it in the right way at the right time – right now!


In fact, if you think about the way you speak with your friends, strangers, family, or colleagues, you might begin to observe how natural dialogue is exchanged in real life situations.

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Start Observing Today!

Before you begin writing dialogue, you should observe the natural interactions of people around you.

If you’re down the market, you might stand back and watch as people say hello to stall owners, how they handle their goods whilst chatting, or perhaps ignore any pleasantries at all, instead choosing to pull their coat collars round their shoulders a little tighter as to block out the prying world.

People speak and behave in different ways, and it’s up to you the author to recognise how people of the world interact through conversation. How do they ask for things? Are they polite? Are they rude? What else gives away pieces of their personality? Do they shy away from human contact, or are they bounding up the counter desperate for conversation?

You might become aware of how you chat easily to a friend, or how another friend may have made you feel really uncomfortable. Think about your body language during these moments. Were your arms open and loose, chest expanded as you casually laugh and lap up the humorous anecdotes of a funny story, or have you felt your arms fold over your chest, or felt your body stay gripped near the point of exit to take an easy route out.

The way we say things, accompanied by a physical gesture can say a lot about whether the thing we say is truth, or whether it’s covering something that we’re not willing to say.

Make Notes of Your Observations

When you’re able to observe an interaction with two or more people, or even a person who doesn’t know you’re watching, this allows you a window into the make up of their character – and so dialogue in direct connection to body language – creates a window into a character for your reader.

Character Dialogue used in a Story

When characters speak within a story there is one goal in mind for the author. The goal is to move the story forward through what that dialogue, along with body language, is telling the reader. This allows the reader to be shown something within the story about the character, another character or the environment their placed in. These elements will feed into what the author wants the reader to know at this moment in the story, so that foreshadow can play out and for the story to unfold in the right way at the right time.

Dialogue should be used sparingly, with intention and purpose to show the reader what they need to see without the author having to spell it out. This is by far a more interestingly considered read for the reader to invest in.

Sometimes just telling the reader everything without showing them through dialogue and body language, can come across as condescending as the reader is far more able to pick up on cues that they’re sometimes not given credit for.

Creating good character dialogue is a writing technique that will not let you, your story or your reader down

The key to creating good dialogue is to practice. Take a look at the type of character you’re creating, consider their morals, their natural environment, what their goals are and the situation they’re in at that time. When you have a clear understanding of who your characters are, what their intentions are, and what you want your reader to know about them, or another character or place at this time, will help you to decide what dialogue is strong and what isn’t – what is necessary and what is fills no purpose.

Keep observing, practising with your observations, and you won’t go far wrong.

Respectfully your guide,

Cheryl x