What is Dialogue in a Story? [Meaning, Types, Examples]

Have you ever wondered why authors use dialogue in their stories? How do authors use it to create an engaging narrative?

In this blog post, we will explore how you can use dialogue effectively in a story – from understanding its purpose to mastering the art of writing effective dialogue.

We’ll also discuss why it’s important for writers to understand elements such as tone and body language when crafting dialogue. So join us!

👉 See our overview guide on elements of a story

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What is Dialogue in a Story?

Dialogue in a story refers to the conversations or spoken interactions between characters. However, unlike ordinary conversations, dialogue has a purpose in a story.

Dialogue is an important element of a story and should be realistic and believable. It should capture the nuances of real-life conversations. Written dialogue must advance the plot and reveal character traits.

What Is The Purpose Of Dialogue in a Story?

As earlier noted, Dialogue is not just conversations. They are interactions that should serve a purpose in a story. Dialogue in a story should:

  1. Reveal character: Dialogue should reveal the personality of a character. It should offer insight into the thoughts of a character. It helps readers understand the characters better.
  2. Add depth and realism: Dialogue makes a story appear real, which makes it even more engaging.
  3. Advance the plot: Dialogue helps move a story forward. It introduces conflict, reveals important information, and creates tension.
  4. Create tension: You can use dialogue to create tension between characters. When characters disagree or argue, it can create tension and suspense.
  5. Break up exposition: Dialogue can break up long stretches of exposition or description.

👉 To learn more, see our complete guide on the purpose of dialogue in a story

Types Of Dialogue In A Story

Authors can use various types of dialogue to achieve the purpose above in their stories. They include:

  • Inner Dialogue – when a character speaks their thoughts aloud or narrates what they’re thinking.
  • Outer Dialogue – When characters have a spoken conversation or debate.
  • Reported Dialogue – dialogue that is not directly spoken by a character but rather reported by another character or narrator.
  • Subtextual Dialogue – dialogue layered with hidden meanings or implications.

👉 For a deeper insight, read our post on the types of dialogue in a story

What Are the Elements of Dialogue in a Story?

No matter the type of dialogue,there are certain elements that it should have so it can have an impact in your story. These elements are:

  1. Dialogue tags: These are terms that show who is speaking. They include words like “she said” or “he replied.”
  2. Punctuation: Dialogue is enclosed in quotation marks. It also integrates commas and periods according to the rules of dialogue punctuation.
  3. Tone: The tone conveys the emotions and attitude of a speaker. It shows whether the speaker is happy, sad, angry, or sarcastic.
  4. Voice: A Character’s dialogue should reflect their own voice. It should have its unique speech patterns, speaking style, and vocab.
  5. Subtext: Dialogue can also have hidden agendas or unspoken feelings and thoughts which are not stated explicitly. This is the subtext of a dialogue.
  6. Body language: Dialogue is often accompanied by body language, including facial expressions, gestures, and posture. This adds depth to the words of a character.
  7. Conflict: Conflict or tension in a dialogue makes it more engaging. It keeps your readers engrossed in the plot.
  8. Contractions: The use of contractions in dialogue makes it more natural and realistic. It also helps to create an informal or casual tone for conversations.

👉 To learn more, see our guide on the elements of dialogue writing

What are the 5 rules of dialogue?

Even though there are several rules of dialogue, there are five notable ones you should know and adhere to:

  1. Use quotation marks to indicate spoken words: Enclose each character’s spoken words in quotation marks to distinguish them from the narration.
  2. Start a new sentence or paragraph for each new speaker: It helps the reader keep track of who is speaking at a time.
  3. Use dialogue tags to indicate who is speaking: Tags include “she said” or, “he asked.”
  4. Make dialogue more natural with contractions: As people speak, they often use contractions. So, use them when writing dialogue in a story to make it appear more authentic.
  5. Show, don’t tell: Dialogue should reveal character, advance the plot, and provide information. Rather than tell the reader what’s going on, show the character’s emotions, thoughts, and motivations of a character with dialogue instead.

👉 For more insight, see our complete post on the 9 Rules of dialogue

Examples of Dialogue

Here are three examples of dialogue in a story, each showcasing different aspects and purposes of dialogue:

1. Character Development:

As Sarah entered the room, she noticed Mark staring out the window, lost in thought.

  • “You seem preoccupied,” she said, gently placing a hand on his shoulder.
  • Mark sighed, “It’s just… I can’t stop thinking about what happened to Luke. He was my best friend, you know?”

Through this dialogue, we learn about Mark’s friendship with Luke. We also have a peek into Mark’s emotional state.

2. Conflict and Tension:

  • “I told you not to come here!” yelled Lisa, her face red with anger.
  • “Oh, please,” retorted Tom, rolling his eyes. “I have every right to be here. This is my house too!”

This dialogue highlights the conflict between Lisa and Tom. You can see how it increases tension and conflict in the story.

3. Plot Advancement:

“Listen,” whispered Jane, her eyes wide with fear, “I found a secret passage in the library. It leads straight to the underground chamber where the treasure is hidden.”

“Really?” gasped Peter. “We have to tell the others and figure out what to do next.”

In this example, the dialogue helps move the story forward. It does this by revealing critical information about the plot.

These examples demonstrate how dialogue can be used in a story to reveal and develop characters, create conflict, advance the plot, and build relationships, among other purposes.

How To Write Dialogue In A Story: 9 Tips With Examples

Learning to write dialogue in a story is an essential skill for any writer. Here are some tips on writing dialogue in a story and examples to help you understand and apply these techniques.

1. Use quotation marks:

Enclose dialogue within double quotation marks to indicate that a character is speaking.

“Can you help me with my homework?” Jenny asked.

2. Create distinct voices:

Give each character a unique voice that reflects their personality, background, and emotions. This can be achieved through vocabulary, sentence structure, literary devices, mannerisms, and tone.


  • “Y’all best be careful ’round these parts,” warned the grizzled old man.
  • “Thank you for your concern, sir, but we can handle ourselves,” replied the confident detective.

The “grizzled” old man is just what he is – revealed in his conversation. While the detective appears to be cool, confident, and professional.

3. Show, don’t tell:

Use actions and reactions to convey emotions and character traits instead of explicitly stating them. For example, rather than say, “Ivy wasn’t angry,” tell rather (through dialogue):

  • “I’m not angry,” she said, slamming her fist on the table.

4. Keep it natural:

Write dialogue that sounds like real-life conversations, complete with pauses, interruptions, and tone shifts.


  • “Uh, so, I was, um, wondering if you’d, you know, like to grab some coffee?” stammered the nervous young man.

5. Use subtext:

Convey emotions and motivations through what characters say and what they don’t say.


  • “I’m fine,” she whispered, tears streaming down her face.

Here, the character says “I’m fine,” “but her emotion implied by the tears shows more meaning than what she says.

6. Avoid info dumps:

Reveal information through dialogue organically. Don’t make it feel forced or unnatural. For example, you don’t have to write long epistles of how Alice has been friends with Anna for years or how they graduated together. Rather, reveal this through dialogue, but in a natural way.


“I can’t believe we’ve been friends since kindergarten, and now we’re graduating high school together,” reminisced Alice.

7. Keep it concise:

Trim unnecessary words and small talk from your dialogue to keep the story moving. Sometimes the small talk gets boring and may make your story lose its shine or engagement. Always aim to maintain your reader’s interest.

For example:

Instead of: “Hi, how are you? Did you have a good day?”

Use: “Hey, what’s new?”

8. Use dialogue tags sparingly:

Limit using dialogue tags like “he said” or “she asked” all the time. Instead, occasionally use tag alternatives or rely on context, action beats, or descriptions to indicate who is speaking.


She frowned, crossing her arms. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

His eyes sparkled with mischief. “Trust me.”

9. Punctuate correctly:

Place commas and periods inside the quotation marks, while question marks and exclamation points may be placed inside or outside, depending on the context. Although this is one of several punctuation rules in dialogue, it is basic and perhaps the most important.


“Are you sure about this?” she asked.

“I’ve never been more certain,” he replied.

With these tips, you can craft engaging, realistic, and meaningful dialogue in your stories – one that’ll bring your characters and their world to life.

👉 See our guide on how to write dialogue between two characters in a story

Examples of Dialogue in Popular Literature & Books 

There are quite many dialogues in popular literature. Let’s explore some to understand how dialogue is employed in these stories.

Example 1: “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling.

“It wasn’t me,” said Harry quickly. “It was the snake, I couldn’t help it, I just got the sudden urge to talk to it…”

“But Harry, why did it only happen when Justin tried to curse you?” asked Hermione.

“I don’t know,” Harry muttered. “I’m just glad it wasn’t poisonous…”

He looked at Hagrid. Hagrid was still looking heartily at him, eye to eye.

‘`Yer not still on abou’ that ferret, are yeh?” he said. “Look, I told yeh. Malfoy tricked me. I didn’t know it was you…”

“Can we go and see Hagrid now?” Hermione asked eagerly as they left the Great Hall behind and climbed the marble staircase. “I’m really looking forward to this.”

Example 2: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.

“Atticus, you must be wrong…”

“How’s that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong…”

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

Example 3: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“You two start on home, Daisy,” said Tom. “In Mr. Gatsby’s car. Go on. He won’t annoy you. I think he realizes that his presumptuous little flirtation is over.”

They walked slowly down the steps.

“Come on,” said Gatsby, “we have to go.”

“I’ll be back in a minute, Daisy.”

They had reached the corner of the mansion, where they stopped.

“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.

Example 4: From the book “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.

“Katniss, the girl who was on fire,” says Cinna. “What do you think?”

I can hear the smile in his voice. “I’m not sure I’m worth all this attention,” I say.

“You’re worth it,” says Cinna. “Embrace it.”

I nod, but I don’t really understand. What do they want from me?

“Here’s what you do,” says Cinna. “You just remember to be yourself. That’s all they want. You at your most real, most honest, most open. You’re the Mockingjay now, Katniss. Make them hear you.”

In all four examples, we can see how the rules of dialogue writing is employed. Each new character starts a dialogue on a new line/paragraph. We see how dialogue tags are employed and the speeches in quotation marks.

Video Recommendation: Dialogue in a Story

FAQs on Dialogue in a Story

What Is Dialogue In A Story?

Dialogue is a conversation between characters in a story. It helps advance the narrative of a story. Dialogue often reveals information about the characters and advances the story’s plot. Dialogue can also add humor, tension, or suspense to a scene.

How Do You Write Good Dialogue In A Story?

To write a good dialogue, you should create realistic conversations by including back-and-forth exchanges, pauses, and proper punctuation. Use natural language that conveys the right tone and emotion for each character. Additionally, reveal information about the characters and ensure that each line of dialogue serves a purpose and is relevant to the story.

What Are The Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Dialogue?

Authors’ mistakes include using unrealistic speech patterns or common dialogue tags. They also overuse exposition and create one-dimensional characters that all sound the same.

How Do You Format Dialogue In A Story?

To format a dialogue, enclose conversation quotation marks, with each new speaker starting on a new line. Ensure dialogue tags indicate who is speaking. Use punctuation to indicate pauses and the end of sentences.

How Do You Use Dialogue To Reveal Character?

You can reveal a character’s personality with dialogue through their choice of words, expressions, slang, and tone.

Final Notes on Dialogue in a Story

Dialogue is an important tool in a story. It helps bring a story to life by giving characters a voice. Besides, it allows the characters to interact with each other. You can reveal information, develop characters, and advance the storyline with dialogue.

Whether you’re new or a seasoned writer, you can craft engaging dialogue using elements of dialogue that can take your writing to the next level. The next time you plan to write a story, remember that dialogue is more than words on a page – it’s often the heartbeat of your story.

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