“The plot design is the key to ensuring that the story goes smoothly and attracts readers, and it contains elements such as conflicts and dialogues.” The importance of dialogues is self-evident as conflicts. But what is dialogue, and how to create compelling conversations in fiction? This article will provide some particle tips.
I. What is dialogue?
A Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie. When writing dialogue, think about the following questions:
1. Does this dialogue promote the characters’ action?
2. Does this dialogue provide readers with new information?
3. Does this dialogue promote the emergence of the next scene?
For example, in the first chapter of “Diving into You,” the heroine and her two best friends were chatting in a bar:
I frowned. What love life? If I had one, then I would gladly talk about it. “I am having even less luck in love than I am in my career.”
“Oh, if you want him, Riley, we can get you him.”
“I want him.”
“I have a plan.”
“You just need to seduce him, that’s all.”
The dialogue in this scene has the following functions:
1. It presents essential information. It shows the problem the heroine is facing: She has a crush. As she is about to graduate, she is considering whether she should profess her love or not.
2. It promotes the character’s action. Riley’s friend’s words provoked her to drink a lot, and her intoxication led her to profess her love.
3. It promotes the next scene. While drunk, Riley recognized that the hero was her crush, and she flirted with him.
II. The function of dialogue
1. Present story’s information
There are two ways to convey information in a story: Description and dialogue.
When conveying information through dialogue, do not write long articles. Instead, keep it short, funny, and life-like.
Do not convey all the information at once. It is enough to convey only the key points.
The more important the information is, the more intense the dialogue should be.
2. Present the characters
Dialogues can show the relationships, personalities, and actions of the characters.
Character vocabulary. The vocabulary used by different characters should be different.
Syntax. When characters come from different regions or eras, or have different emotions, distinct syntactic structures can make the dialogue interesting.
Specific titles. This includes the code words used in particular industries. For example, the mafia might use nicknames to indicate unique relationships.
3. Set the tone
Dialogues provide readers with hints about the type and emotional tone of the story, and they will give them different feelings. Thus, writers must pay extra attention to the opening dialogue.
4. Design scene
The character’s reaction to the scene can help readers get a feel for the environment. Characters’ dialogues can establish a sense of dynamics in a scene.
Have the characters convey their feelings about the new scene via dialogues.
Have the characters take action in the scene while having dialogues.
5. Convey the theme
A story’s theme is relatively abstract and macroscopic. Try not to use narrative language to express the theme in a “teaching” way, but to express it in dialogues.
Express the theme through specific argumentative dialogues.
Use questioning, rebuttal, and doubting dialogues to convey the theme. There should be fewer large-length self-confessions.
III. How to train writing dialogues？
1. Let yourself talk to the character. Imagine the dialogue style of the character.
2. Read plays and movie scripts.
3. Change a previously written descriptive text into a dialogue.
4. Change a previously written scene with a conflict into a scene with dialogue.
IV. How to make the dialogue interesting？
1. Do not let the two participants in the dialogue directly show their purpose (no direct questions). Add in some suspicion, cover-up, and intrigue.
2. Do not turn the dialogue into a Q&A. Let the characters have disputes.
3. Increase communication barriers. You could include third-party interruptions or refusals to answer questions for compulsive or emotional reasons.
4. Add elements of fear.
5. Arrange subtext into the dialogue (Secrets, past relationships, background stories, memories, etc.).
6. Display significant deviations in the characters’ personalities (Authoritative and stubborn roles, balanced and restrained roles, hysterical and emotional roles, etc.).
7. Compress the dialogue and reduce repetitive and opening words. Use fewer long sentences and clauses to refine the conversation.
8. Let the dialogue develop in accordance with the actions, silences, and changes in the environment.
V. Dialogue modification examples
Calvin, the young mafia heir, had to marry Adela to defeat his uncle and succeed him as the leader. In his eyes, Adela is just a willful woman who only cares about fashion and the prom. Although she is beautiful, she is not the best candidate to be a wife. Adela fell in love with Calvin at first sight, but her pride made her hide her emotions, and she deliberately acted indifferently in front of Calvin.
Adela’s character slowly attracted Calvin, and he realized that she was more than just eye candy. She was a girl with an independent personality that dared to love and hate. More importantly, Adela didn’t seem to care about their marriage. Without realizing he was doing it, Calvin began to pay attention to Adela. Everything was fine until one day, at a ball, Calvin ran into Emily, a woman who had once pursued him. Emily deliberately pretended to be drunk, and she fell into Calvin’s arms. This scene happened to be caught by Adela. So, there was a quarrel between them…
In the following example, all of the text is deleted except for the dialogue and some minor descriptions:
Adela: “What are you doing, Calvin?”
Calvin: “As you can see, I’m attending a prom.”
Adela: “Attending a prom? Do you have to hug someone intimately when you go to a prom?”
Calvin: (frowning) “Adela, stop being capricious.”
Adela: (smiles bitterly) “Yes, I’m too capricious. Maybe I should be like you — “
Calvin: “Like me?”
Adela: “Yes! Ruthless and careless. Like you. I know you hate me, and I know you hate our marriage, but you shouldn’t use Emily to insult me.”
Calvin: “Whether you believe it or not, I have nothing to do with Emily.”
Adela: (sighs) “Let’s get divorced. As you wish.”
Calvin: (surprised) “Do you know how much divorces cost? They aren’t cheap! And our families have so much invested in our arrangement! This is not something we can arbitrarily walk away from!”
Adela: “I know. I thought it was just a contract marriage. But now, things are different, and I want to quit.”
Calvin: (frowning) “Give me one good reason. Convince me. Otherwise, I won’t let you go.”
Adela: (crying) “I fell in love with you, and I can’t stand to see you flirt with other women!”
Adela turned to leave, but Calvin hugged her.
Calvin: “Don’t go…”
This is an example of a “Pass Dialogue,” but it is not excellent. This dialogue promoted changes in the relationship between the two. Adela confided her love for Calvin, and Calvin also retained Adela. However, there are some problems with this dialogue: It is too plain. It does not convey the protagonists’ feelings to the reader, and their personalities are not distinct. Therefore, we should consider modifying this dialogue by:
- Directly showing the core contradiction. Do not waste too much time on the prom.
- Making the characters’ dialogue as concise as possible and putting more meaning outside of the language.
- Having the dialogue embody the character.
- Hinting at the changes in the relationship towards the end, thus giving the readers something to look forward to.
Adela: (Angry) “Calvin!” (Controls herself. Calms down) Let’s get divorced.”
Calvin: (Frowning) “Adela, don’t be capricious. Things are not what you think — “
Adela: (takes off the ring and puts it on the table) I don’t care anymore, Calvin.”
Calvin: “So, what do you care about? Do you know how much our families have invested in this marriage? Do you know what the consequences of a divorce would be?”
Adela: “I know…”
Calvin: “If you regret saying what you said, then I will just say that I didn’t hear what I thought I heard you say…”
Adela: “I don’t need your pity. LET’S GET DIVORCED!!!”
Calvin: (laughs) “Just because of a hug at a dance? I didn’t know my wife was so possessive of me. What if I won’t let you go?”
Adela: (surprised) “…”
Calvin: (touching Adela’s chin) “You know; I don’t let my belongings leave my sight without my authorization. Since you exchanged rings with me, you can’t withdraw at will.”
Adela: (tears) “I thought I could be as ruthless as you.”
Calvin: “What changed?”
Adela: (crying) “I can’t accept that you stand with other women. I fell in love with you. I’m out. I can’t face this. I just want to leave this absurd marriage.”
Calvin: (surprised) “…”
Adela began to cry. Then she turned to leave, but Calvin grabbed her and hugged her.
Calvin: “I can’t let you go…”
We can feel the difference between the two dialogues. The revised dialogue contains more emotion and is streamlined. Of course, there are many ways to modify dialogue, and the modified dialogue presented here is not necessarily perfect. Good dialogue is the result of continuous training, practice, and editing. As you continue your writing journey, pay attention to how you design and modify your dialogues. You will find that good dialogues will make your story a lot more interesting.
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