What is dialogue?\r\nDialogue is not just quotation. It is grimaces, pauses, adjustments of blouse buttons, doodles on a napkin, and crossings of legs.\u201d \u2013 Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction\r\nNot all of the following are used together, however,\u00a0dialogue consists of four main elements:\r\n\r\n\tSpoken words \u2013 the direct speech or the words within the quote marks.\r\n\tSpeech tags \u2013 the words that tell the reader who is speaking and how they are speaking.\r\n\tActions of the speaker \u2013 a description of the speaking character\u2019s actions before, during and after speech.\r\n\tThoughts or emotional state of the speaker \u2013 a description of the speaking character\u2019s emotional state before, during and after speech.\r\n\r\nDialogue is one of the most difficult literary devices to master... Image Credit: Gemma Bou via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\n\r\nWhen characters start talking to each other, the story comes to life. A reader can gain a far deeper understanding of a character through their words and actions than they can from the narrative text. A couple of sentences of dialogue can reveal much about the background of a particular character. Are they wealthy or poor? What is their country of origin? Have they been well-educated? Are they feeling happy or sad? All of these questions can be answered with effective dialogue.\r\nWhat should dialogue do?\r\n\r\n\tReveal emotions\r\n\tDraw the reader into the characters\u2019 lives\r\n\tShow the reader how the character reacts to different situations, such as pressure, intimacy, hate, love or fear\r\n\tMove the story forward \u2013 every piece of dialogue should have a purpose\r\n\tHint at or tell of coming events\r\n\tGive balance to a story after a long section of narrative\r\n\tIncrease the pace of the story\r\n\tContribute humour\r\n\tReflect the changes in emotions and lifestyle of your characters\r\n\r\nWhat should dialogue not do?\r\n\r\n\tSummarise action that could otherwise be exciting\r\n\tForce-feed information to the reader \u2013 tell a character something they would already know, purely to fill in background to the reader\r\n\tAct as padding to achieve a word count\r\n\tRamble on without the characters learning anything knew or achieving something\r\n\tSound exactly like real speech, with interruptions, rambling, repetitions and stutters, although these have their place.\r\n\r\nWhat tricks do you use to create effective dialogue? Image Credit: Chris Blakeley via Flickr Creative Commons.\r\nTips for Writing Dialogue\r\nRemember, most people speak quite simply. If you dress up a character\u2019s speech too much it will sound unrealistic.\r\nIf you are using dialogue \u2014 say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.\u201d \u2013 John Steinbeck\r\nBetter yet, grab a few friends and act it out, taking note of the speech tags and the actions of the speaker. This can be very entertaining and you\u2019ll be able to see very quickly where your dialogue falls down.