Characters and Dialogue

An author can reveal a lot about their characters through dialogue. Here are some of the things dialogue can do:

Advance the plot

“Get the boys together. Bring all the gear. We break in tonight.”

Reveal character traits and emotions

“I just can’t go through with it. I’m sorry, but I told you I’m nervous of causing trouble in the family.”

Firm up relationships or situations

“Look. I know you’re not the bravest when it’s crunch time, but I’m glad you told me now so I can get someone else.”

Allow confrontation

“Just don’t forget how you’ve let me down.”

“Don’t worry! I won’t forget. But don’t you forget that the disappointment works both ways.”

Add a turning point

“You didn’t tell me you were working for my worst enemy. How could you not have told me?”

“You didn’t ask.”

“I won’t forget this.”

Deliver information on weather, setting, or surroundings.

“Doesn’t this place have air conditioning?”

Tell about a quirk that a person might have

“Will you stop clearing your throat? You’re driving me crazy.”

Lead into a transition

“I’ll see you tomorrow, after I talk to the last witness.”

 

Using dialogue to provide all these types of information can make a novel much more interesting than merely telling the same information in a long, boring narrative.

12 thoughts on “Characters and Dialogue

  1. Excellent examples, Anneli, highlighting an essential technique of bestselling authors.

    Last week I read a tightly woven mystery with courtroom scenes, and the dialogue carried the story forward. Then I read a different author’s ARC, and that writer had a tendency to explain and tell rather than show through character dialogue. I rated the courtroom drama five stars and will continue reading more in the thirteen book series. BTW: The ARC I rated at three stars, and will pass on reading more of his work.

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    • The difference between giving the reader credit for figuring things out from what’s going or just being told what to think – can result in page-turner tension or book-closing boredom.
      Thank you for your comment, Grant.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I try to imagine the scene in my head and who is saying what, and then if it’s appropriate I try to use it to move the scene along. One of my readers said I used too much dialogue, so there’s that to watch for too.

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