15 Engaging Ways to Start Dialogue in a Story

Dialogue is a crucial element in any story. It is a vital part of storytelling and helps to reveal character personalities, develop relationships, and advance the plot. Starting a dialogue sentence engagingly and naturally can enhance the reading experience and keep readers invested in the story.

In this article, we’ll explore how to start dialogue in a story, complete with examples, to help you create authentic and captivating conversations.

👉See our overview guide to writing dialogue for authors

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How To Start A Dialogue In A Story

1. Start With Action:

Starting a dialogue with an action that precedes or accompanies the dialogue helps to set the scene and provide context for the conversation. It allows readers to visualize the situation and understand the emotions behind the dialogue.


Jane slammed the book shut. “I can’t believe the ending! The author completely caught me off-guard.”

2. Start With Dialogue Tag:

Starting a dialogue sentence with a tag to indicate the speaker is a straightforward approach. It provides clarity and ensures that readers can easily follow the conversation.


John whispered, his voice barely audible, “I think someone’s following us. We need to be careful.”

3. Begin With Emotion or Tone:

Including the character’s emotion or tone before the dialogue effectively conveys their feelings and state of mind. This allows the reader to engage and empathize with the character.


Frustrated and on the verge of tears, Maria muttered, “I give up. I just can’t do this anymore.”

From the example, you can see the emotional/sad tone that the writer uses to start the dialogue quote that follows. This is often a powerful technique I use too.

4. Use An Interjection:

Using an interjection at the beginning of a dialogue sentence can convey a character’s surprise, excitement, or other strong emotion, instantly capturing the reader’s attention.

Interjections include words like  “Wow,” “Hey,” and “Oops.” They can also be phrases such as, “Oh my goodness” or “Good grief.” Interjections are typically followed by an exclamation point, although they don’t always have to be.


“Wow!” exclaimed Peter, his eyes wide with amazement. “You’ve outdone yourself this time. This cake is incredible!”

5. Start with a Question:

You can start a dialogue sentence with a question. Questions encourage conversation and pique the reader’s interest, making them eager to learn more.


“Did you hear what happened last night?” asked Susan, her voice filled with curiosity and concern.

6. Use A Command or Request:

Using a command or request at the beginning of a dialogue sentence can establish authority or convey urgency, adding tension and excitement to the story.


“Stop!” yelled Officer Smith, his voice booming. “You’re under arrest! Put your hands up!”

7. Begin With An Interruption:

Showing a character interrupting another character by beginning the dialogue mid-sentence can create conflict and reveal character dynamics. This is another powerful technique that keeps readers engaged.


“But I was just—”

“No excuses,” she interrupted, her voice firm and unwavering. “You need to take responsibility for your actions.”

Remember, our dialogue rules on how to punctuate interruptions specify to punctuate interruptions with em dashes. Not commas, not ellipses, and definitely not periods.

8. Start With Pauses or Hesitation:

You can start dialogue sentences with pauses or hesitation. They often show or imply uncertainty or reluctance. This makes the conversation feel more realistic and relatable.


“Um, I think… I might be in love with you,” he stammered, his face flushing with embarrassment.

9. Add a Quotation:

Quoting another character or a famous saying can add depth or context to a dialogue sentence, showcasing a character’s knowledge or thought process. Quotations can be used to draw out a conversation and create suspense.


“Like Shakespeare said, ‘All the world’s a stage,'” mused Emily, her eyes lost in thought. “I think life is a series of performances, don’t you think?”

10. Begin With Inner Thought:

Beginning a dialogue sentence with the character’s inner thoughts allows readers to understand the character’s thought process and motivations before they speak. It can be a great tool for creating suspenseful moments.


I shouldn’t be doing this, he thought, his heart racing. “Okay, I’m in. Let’s do this together.”

Inner thoughts should not be surrounded by quotations. Otherwise, readers may think the character is speaking out loud. Rather, inner thoughts should be set apart from a character’s outer dialogue with italics.

11. Start With Scene Setting:

Setting the scene by describing the surroundings before the dialogue starts can create a vivid atmosphere and immerse readers in the story.


As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm glow across the beach, Alice sighed. “I wish this moment could last forever. There’s something so magical about sunsets, don’t you think?”

12. Use a sound or onomatopoeia:

Using a sound or onomatopoeia at the beginning of a dialogue sentence can capture the reader’s attention and create atmosphere, setting the tone for the conversation that follows.


Knock, knock. “Who’s there?” she asked nervously, her heart pounding in her chest as she stood by the door.

13. Start by describing the atmosphere or setting.

You can set the mood of a scene and give your dialogue more context by describing what’s going on around the characters. Describing their environment can also help readers better understand the conversations that are taking place.


The café was crowded and noisy, but John and Jane found a quiet corner to talk. “So, what did you want to tell me?” asked John.

14. Use an action to introduce the speaker.

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish who’s speaking without a visual cue. To avoid confusion, include an action before the speaker’s dialogue to provide clarity. This can also help build tension and drama in the scene.


John sighed and pushed his glasses up his nose. “I don’t know if I can do this,” he said.

15. Start by reacting to something that has just occurred.

Rather than beginning a conversation with the same dull greeting, have your characters react to something that just happened in the scene. This can help to move the dialogue forward in an interesting direction.


“I can’t believe you just did that,” said Jane, her voice rising in anger.

FAQs On How To Start Dialogue In A Story

Why is starting dialogue in a story important?

Starting dialogue effectively in a story is important because it sets the tone, engages the reader, and reveals character personalities. A strong dialogue opening can also advance the plot and contribute to the overall flow of the narrative.

How can I make my dialogue more engaging?

To make your dialogue more engaging, vary your sentence structure and use a mix of dialogue tags, actions, emotions, and other techniques to start your sentences. Keep dialogue natural and authentic, and use subtext and body language to add depth to conversations.

What should I avoid when starting dialogue in a story?

Avoid excessive use of dialogue tags, overly formal language, or unnatural conversations. Also, steer clear of excessive small talk that does not contribute to character development or move the story forward.

Should I always use dialogue tags when starting dialogue sentences?

No, you don’t need to use dialogue tags in every sentence. In fact, using them too often can make your dialogue feel repetitive and monotonous. Instead, try using actions, emotions, or context to indicate who is speaking, and only use dialogue tags when necessary for clarity.

Final Notes On How To Start Dialogue In A Story

There are numerous ways to start a dialogue sentence in a story, each with its own unique impact on the narrative. With these techniques, you can create engaging and dynamic conversations that draw readers in and make your characters feel more authentic and relatable. Experiment with different approaches to find the perfect balance and style for your story.

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