How to Write Dialogue: Format, Tips and Examples

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How to Write Dialogues

In very simple words, dialogue is an exchange of ideas, opinions, and emotions between two or more people. Dialogue can serve several purposes when used as a literary technique. Dialogue can take the plot ahead, unfold the events or makes us privy to characters’ attitude and beliefs. Here is all you must know about writing dialogue. From formatting to writing tips and dialogue writing examples, we have got your back through this blog on how to write dialogue. So if you wish to know more about the above-mentioned subject and some interesting dialogue writing examples, then keep reading further. 

Format for Dialogue Writing

Before jumping straight away on to dialogue writing examples, let us first understand and learn about the format for dialogue writing which will help us excel in the art of dialogue writing. Dialogue formatting could be a challenging task but with practice and a keen eye, one can easily get the hang of it. Here is a list of major formatting rules you must adhere to:

  1. Every speaker must get a new paragraph. Each time someone speaks, you must create a new paragraph. If a character utters even a single word, they must be highlighted in a new paragraph.
  2. Every paragraph must be indented. However, at the beginning of a chapter and after a scene break, the first line must never be indented, including dialogue.
  3. Punctuation for dialogues must go within the quotation marks. The punctuation that is a part of a character’s dialogue must be placed inside the quotes so that the readers know the way in which the dialogue was delivered.
  4. Long speeches covering numerous paragraphs must not have end quotations. If a character speaks for very long that they cover separate paragraphs, the quotation marks on the end must be removed. However, note that you must begin the subsequent paragraph with them.
  5. Use single quotation marks if a character quotes someone. For instance, If a character says, “ I love it when he says, ‘Thank you’?”, the single quotation marks show what someone else has said.

To better understand the art of writing dialogue, we bring to you an elaborate list of dialogue writing examples. If you wish to master dialogue writing, carefully go through the examples given below.

Dialogue Writing Examples

Let’s take a look at some dialogue writing examples for prominent literary works.

Dialogue Writing Example 1: A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle

This is an insightful example. Observe how the dialogue blends with the descriptions:

Calvin licked his lips. “Where are we going?”

“Up.” Charles continued his lecture. “On Camazotz we are all happy because we are all alike. Differences create problems. You know that, don’t you, dear sister?”

“No,” Meg said.

“Oh, yes, you do. You’ve seen at home how true it is. You know that you’re not happy at school. Because you’re different.”

“I’m different, and I’m happy,” Calvin said.

“But you pretend that you aren’t different.”

“I’m different, and I like being different.” Calvin’s voice was unnaturally loud.

“Maybe I don’t like being different,” Meg said, “but I don’t want to be like everybody else, either.”

The dialogue reveals much about the characters while also perfectly mingling with the descriptions. Instead of plain dialogues, there is much more going on in this scene.

Dialogue Writing Example 2: Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

Here is another example of dialogue:

“Now he is here,” I exclaimed. “For Heaven’s sake, hurry down! Do be quick; and stay among the trees till he is fairly in.”

“I must go, Cathy,” said Heathcliff, seeking to extricate himself from his companion’s arms. “I won’t stray five yards from your window…”

“For one hour,” he pleaded earnestly.

“Not for one minute,” she replied.

“I must–Linton will be up immediately,” persisted the intruder.

Dialogue Writing Example 3: The Secret History, Donna Tartt

Here is another treasure that is a part of our dialogue writing examples. The dialogue along with descriptions work to smoothly take the story forward:

“Hi, Richard,” she said, and spit out a mouthful of toothpaste. She was wearing cut-off jeans that had bizarre, frantic designs drawn on them in Magic Marker and a spandex top which revealed her intensely aerobicized midriff.

“Hello,” I said, setting to work on my tie.

“You look cute today.”

“Thanks.

“Got a date?”

I looked away from the mirror, at her. “What?”

“Where are you going?”

By now I was used to her interrogations.

Dialogue Writing Example 4: Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

This example from our list of dialogue writing examples shows the use of both inner and outer dialogue. Observe how they change turns and divulge the character’s personality:

“Hard evidence isn’t hard evidence if you don’t break your back digging for it. An editor named Dom Grelsch told me that.”

Grelsch glares at her.

“I got a lead, Dom.”

“You got a lead.”

I can’t batter you, I can’t fool you. I can only hook your curiosity. “I phoned the precinct where Sixsmith’s case was processed.”

You can see how the inner dialogue works seamlessly with the outer dialogue to give you more insight into the character, Luisa Rey.

Writing Prompt for Practice

Now, you’ve seen dialogue writing examples in action through some of the famous examples that English Literature has to share with us. All you need to do is practise. To get you started, we give you three prompts to choose from. While adhering to the format, use your imagination to write alluring dialogue. Here are the prompts:

  1. Write a dialogue between yourself and a stranger whom you encountered at a party. You may make use of outer and inner dialogue.
  2. Write a dialogue between four characters of your choice, and build suspense. Make sure the readers are drawn into the dialogue.
  3. Write a dialogue between yourself and your partner or companion and share a vulnerable story. Make the dialogue as moving as you can. 

These prompts along with the dialogue writing examples will get you started and force you to step out of your comfort zone. Several times, you are required to write on subjects you do not personally relate to. However, that’s the magic and challenge of being a good writer. Transforming things that might seem dull or unfamiliar to you into something unforgettable and magic. So, go forth and conquer! For more amazing and helpful reads, stay tuned with Leverage Edu. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Leave your comments below for our valuable feedback.

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