Conversation or Dialogue?

There’s a good chance you’ll incorporate dialogue into your writing at some point. Unfortunately, writing dialogue requires good writing skill, for it is one of the most difficult challenges any writer faces. Perhaps that’s because writers don’t distinquish between conversation and dialogue.

Conversation is the way people talk (not very dramatic). Here’s an example of conversation:

“What are you doing this weekend?”

“Not much.”

Here’s an example of dialogue:

“Any great plans for the weekend?”

“Not unless you call babysitting my neighbor’s dog great.”

What’s the difference between the two examples? Conversation is boring, exchanges information. Dialogue is dramatic, leaves an opening to further the story.

So, what does it take to write good dialogue? You need

  • the voice to be specific to the character (so the reader knows who’s speaking without a tagline),
  • the setting surrounding the dialogue,
  • some tension or conflict embedded in what’s said,
  • the dialogue should further the story, so may offer some foreshadowing,
  • another tool that works in furthering the story is explanation, so the dialogue could explain something that wouldn’t otherwise be known.

Practice writing dialogue to show character traits you can’t physically describe–maybe your character is cynical or maybe your character is gullible, for example.

Make sure you have a reason for every piece of dialogue you include in your writing. If there’s no reason for the exchange between two characters, don’t write it.

At the risk of too much repetition, I’ll finish with this. If the dialogue doesn’t move the story forward, don’t include it–period. Happy writing.

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1 Response to “Conversation or Dialogue?”


  1. 1 John Sullivan June 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    The most succinct differentiation I’ve found. Got it! Thanks, headed into my manuscript right now.


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