1. to portray the individual characters and their wants and needs or goals
2. to define the points of conflict or roadblocks between the characters or a sitution
3.. to propel the characters toward what I call the main ‘story question’. The story question is the underlying theme or premise of the tale, or other creative work of writing, such as ‘will good triumph over evil?” Will man or woman tame the beast? Will nature prevail against the human?
Through dialogue, the writer portrays the character’s motivations, flaws, knowledge, fears, personality quirks, and gives each character a distinct voice. A reader learns a lot about somebody’s mindset, background, emotional state, and level of expertise from how they speak.
Dialogue can also be used to show a character’s relationship to another, and offer clues about the story setting and the character’s feelings toward the setting. One character might hate cold weather and be despondent when snow falls, while another relishes the ski slopes.
Details or subtext can also be conveyed through dialogue to show class differences, shared history, language and cultural differences.
Dialogue, when interspersed with narrative exposition, also provides background information and helps the reader understand the context of the plot.
When characters speak to each other, your writing feel more immersive. Conversation breaks up long prose passages and gives your reader something to “hear” other than your narrator’s voice. It can communicate subtext, like showing class differences between characters through the vocabulary they use or hinting at a shared history between them. Sometimes, a narrator’s description just can’t deliver information the same way that a well-timed observation can.
In contrast to dialogue, a monologue is a single, usually lengthy passage spoken by one character. Monologues are often part of plays.
Types of dialogue
There are two broad types of dialogue writers employ in their work: inner and outer dialogue:
Inner dialogue is the dialogue a character has inside their head. This inner dialogue can be a monologue. In most cases, inner dialogue is not marked by quotation marks. Some authors mark inner dialogue by italicizing it.
Outer dialogue is dialogue that happens externally, often between two or more characters. This is the dialogue that goes inside quotation marks.
In monologue, the character may be speaking directly to the reader or viewer, or they could be speaking to one or more other characters. The defining characteristic of a monologue is thone character’s moment in the spotlight to express their thoughts, ideas, and/or perspective.
Often, a character’s private thoughts are delivered via monologue. An internal monologue is the voice an individual
“hears” in their head as they talk themselves through their daily activities. Your story might include one or more characters’ inner monologues in addition to their dialogue. Hearing one’s thoughts through monologue can make us connect with the character and boost our emotional investment in the story arc.
I saw a good example on Reedsy.com. Read the following passage and ask yourself how much you know about the character through dialogue.
Jane Austen,
Pride and Prejudice
In the first piece of dialogue in Pride and Prejudice, we meet Mr and Mrs Bennet, as Mrs Bennet attempts to draw her husband into a conversation about neighborhood gossip.
“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
“Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.
“You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”
This was invitation enough.
“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”
Austen’s dialogue is always witty, subtle, and packed with character. This extract from Pride and Prejudice
is a great example of dialogue being used to develop character relationships. We instantly learn everything we need to know about the dynamic between Mr and Mrs Bennet’s from their first interaction: she’s chatty, and he’s the beleaguered listener who has learned to entertain her idle gossip, if only for his own sake (hence “you want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it”).