“Great dialogue makes great fiction.”

Writing compelling dialogue is an art and a craft that a writer must master. Bad dialogue doesn’t connect with the readers and eventually a book that could have been awesome falls flat. Think about your favourite movie. Apart from the characters, what stays with the fans are the dialogue. Kitne aadmi the? Ring a bell? I’m sure it would have. It’s the same with writing stories or for that matter any form of fiction. Good dialogue can save the entire story and the author. In this article we’ll cover the essential points on how to write compelling dialogue in a story.

Before we dive into the main topic, let me briefly explain to you the two types of dialogue.

1. Summarized/Indirect Dialogue- This type of dialogue is written without inverted commas. For example- Rohan said it was time to go to the market. Another example would be- MS Thompson asked us to leave the classroom.

2. Direct Dialogue- This type of dialogue is written within the inverted commas. For example- Rohan said, “Let’s go to the market.” Another example- “Get out of the classroom.” MS Thompson scolded.

I hope you get the general idea on the two types of dialogue. You can use either of the two types or you can mix it up if you like.

Now coming on to our main topic of the day, how to write compelling dialogue in a story. There are some dos and don’ts in the art of dialogue writing and as a writer you must pay attention to them.

1. DON’T BE TOO REALISTIC- When I say realistic, it means don’t be too obvious. As readers we hate the obvious in a story. Let’s take an example- Manan and Shrey are two thirty year old men who are having a conversation during their office lunch break.

“Hi Manan.”

“Hi Shreya.”

“How are you.”

“I’m good. How are you?”

“I have a headache.”

“Oh. Did you take your medicine?”


Wow! That was really bad. The reason was it was too direct. This is how we actually speak to each other. It was too realistic to be included in fiction writing. As writers we have to add some spunk into it.    

Now let’s see how we can add some spunk in the dialogue.

“Hi Manan. You look a bit dull. Are you okay?” Shrey asked as he bit into his egg sandwich.

“Hey Shrey. Ya man. Just a little headache. My life’s really killing me right now.” Manan replied while sipping his latte.

Did you notice how I added a bit more detail into the dialogue and made you visualize the conversation? Also, my readers would be slightly more interested in the dialogue because they would like to know what’s troubling Manan.

2. DON’T BE FAKE- It’s easier to lose balance while trying to be not too realistic. You can end up being fake and that too is not recommended. One way to avoid making this mistake is to read your dialogue aloud. Like that you will know if you have gone over the top or not. Let’s continue with the same example-

“Hi Manan! How are? Long time no see.” Shrey hugged his office buddy. They were the best of friends and the entire staff knew about it.

“Hey buddy. I was dying to see you brother. I have such a terrible headache. I can’t even explain how bad it is. Thanks to my crappy life which I can’t seem to have a control over.” Manan exasperated.

Ew! Too sweet. Too much. I wouldn’t read it any further and my readers also probably won’t.

3. DON’T GIVE TOO MUCH INFORMATION- You don’t have to tell everything to your readers. They don’t need to know about every detail. Why? Because, it breaks the flow and deviates the attention from what’s important to what’s not important. This is something which comes with practice. While learning on how to write good dialogue, some aspiring writers do give away too much unnecessary information. Keep your conversations tight. There are many readers who would stop reading the story if the dialogue sags even for a bit. A bad writing example would be something like this-

“Hi Manan. How are you?” Shrey asked.

“Hi Shrey. Apart from the throbbing pain that I have developed right above my right ear around the temple which covers half of my forehead, my life seems to be falling apart. It’s going down. So down…”

A perfect example of how a writer should NOT write dialogue.

4. READ OUT ALOUD- This is by far the best practice on how to write compelling dialogue in a story . This ensures that you have written a tight, interesting dialogue. After writing down the entire conversation, take a five minute break. Get up from your desk and go out of the room. A change in the scenery will freshen up the mind and when you return, you will be able to see the loopholes. Now, read your dialogue aloud from your reader’s point of view. If you find it sagging or undone add necessary details. On the other hand, if you find it overdone, don’t be afraid to slash out the unnecessary. Remember! You write and the reader approves.

5. USE DIALOGUE TAGS WISELY- Dialogue tags are something which is written either before or right after the dialogue. Some examples would be- She said. He asked. She snarled. He questioned, etc. They are written in order to attribute the speech to whoever is speaking. Dialogue tags might be accompanied with adverbs or maybe written using only verbs. They are written in order to enhance the spunk but be careful not to overdo it. Instead of using colourful descriptive tags, we can always enhance our dialogue and make it speak for itself. We can also focus on the facial and physical expression of the person speaking the dialogue in order to convey the tone of the dialogue.

I hope this article solves your query related to how a compelling dialogue should be written. Feel free to share your views and feedback.


Ritiqa Pachauri.

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