Writing Realistic Dialogue

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA

The following article by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is offered to fellow writers for personal use only. If you wish to re-publish these articles in your publication, you must request permission in writing from Dr. MaryAnn Diorio at drmaryann@maryanndiorio.com. These articles are copyrighted by International Copyright Law. All Rights Reserved.

How does one write realistic dialogue?

Contrary to popular opinion, dialogue in fiction is not exactly the same as dialogue in real life. Whereas in real life, we usually engage in small talk–like, “How are you?” and “I’m fine”–when writing dialogue for fiction we generally leave out the small talk and get to the meat of the message.

Dialogue serves a variety of purposes in fiction. A primary purpose of dialogue is to propel the plot. The amount of dialogue you include affects the pace of your scene. For example, a lot of dialogue moves the scene–and the story–forward quickly, while little dialogue slows the story down.

Dialogue also characterizes the people in your story. Through dialogue, we learn important information about your character–what her values are, what her background is, what she is afraid of, etc.

A major purpose of dialogue is to create conflict. Conflict is the heart of a good story. Without it, you have no story. Dialogue will help you not only to create conflict but also to keep it going till the end of your story.

The question often arises about how true should one remain to to dialogue that is dialect. While that topic would require a lesson all by itself, let me say here that it is all right to include dialect in your dialogue as long as it doesn’t trip up the reader. In other words, if the dialect draws attention to itself and away from the story, eliminate it or use it only sparingly.

To learn how to write good dialogue, read good dialogue. Also, in your trusty notebook (that I’m sure you’re carrying around with you after our earlier lesson :), jot down snippets of interesting dialogue you hear throughout the day. Remember that being a writer allows you to eavesdrop–but always for the right reason. 🙂

Pay close attention to the conversation style of the people around you. Note unusual phrases, types of sentences, and unusual words used. Note also the gestures that accompany the conversation as those gestures can be included in your fiction writing as beats.


Other Articles by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio: To order, please send a request for the article you want to purchase to info@maryanndiorio.com

Creating Powerful Characters

The First Step to Writing Your Story

Finding Ideas for Your Story

Five Fiction-Writing Facts

Hints for Reprints

So You Want to Write a Novel

Bio: Dr. MaryAnn Diorio writes riveting, compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. Her stories will entertain you, move you, and transform you. MaryAnn has been happily married to Dom for 46 years. They are blessed with two amazing adult daughters, a wonderful son-in-law, and five precious and rambunctious grandchildren. When she is not writing, MaryAnn loves to spend time praising and worshiping the Lord, reading, painting, and playing the piano, cello, and mandolin. You may reach her at drmaryann@maryanndioro.com.

Copyright 2010 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio, All Rights Reserved and Protected by International Copyright Law. Violators will be prosecuted.