How To Use Dialog in Storytelling

Using dialog in storytelling skyrockets your writing to the next level.

The three ways to write a story are: 1.Narrative exposition (generally boring) 2. Action (too many thriller scenes can exhaust the reader) 3. Dialog ( the best way to develop characters)

Readers love dialog because:

  1. Dialog breaks up the monotony of boring blocks of narrative.
  2. It reveals character through dialect and word choice.
  3. Great dialog moves the story forward without author intrusion.
Great Dialog can drastically improve your fiction.
Dialog in storytelling

Tip # 1 Use Dialog to Explain Elements of Your Story

If you have written something as exposition, it probably came out dry. Try putting the information into dialog. Watch your scene come alive.

Have a character tell what they saw or explain a problem. If another character disagrees, the main character must explain or expand on his position.

To make dialog more powerful, your characters should be passionate about the idea or problem. Either passionately for it, or against it.

If you find yourself stuck in a scene, not sure how to continue, try rearranging the information into dialog and watch the scene come to life.

Example: His voice trembled “I tell you; it was spooky. I watched her spread yellow powder on the floor. She chanted a song, that was not really a song, as she swept. I wanted to run. But my legs would not move.”
“What are you talking about? Nobody practices voodoo anymore. That’s crazy.”
“It’s true. I think Eliza’s a witch.”

Tip #2: Use Dialog in Storytelling to Relate Backstory.


Use dialog to convey a previous event that affects the current situation. Add intimate details. Explain how your character felt. Give your readers insights into your characters’ background.

By using dialog to layer in backstory, you avoid flashbacks which are usually exposition, which tends to be boring.

Example: “I was born in the bayou, with the snakes and the gators. I love the feel of wet earth folding around my boots. I’m happiest listening to the bullfrogs sing with a chorus of crickets chirping behind them. Every time I come to the city; I can’t wait to get back home. Most folks think the bayou is evil. I think the city is evil. You don’t have riots in the bayou, there ain’t enough people.”

Tip #3: Use Verbal Conflict to Add Tension.

Dialog arguments

People differ in the way they look at life (men, women, young, old). Personalities clash. Use that diversity to create tension. See: How to Write Powerful Arguments

Example: From our second book Globes of Fire

“This is unbelievable,” Royal Master Quinn’s voice was filled with despair. “First they wage a war and now an insurrection. Why are we even wasting our time with this hostile group of Silkies?” The sick, cold certainty of doom gripped him. Quinn felt El-Ahman was leading them into a situation that was bound to end in failure.

“The Federation’s leaders are expecting to meet with me,” El-Ahman ignored Quin’s question.

“You’re not going under these conditions, are you?” Quinn’s deep-set eyes searched El-Ahman’s face for clues to his thinking. “Not only is the success of our mission to be considered. Our reputations are at stake. If we build a prosperous galaxy, more offers for leadership will come.

On the other hand, creating a galaxy rife with problems could be the death-sentence for our futures.”

Develop sharp, interesting dialog that enhances your story.

Tip #4: Use Dialog in Storytelling to Establish Relationships.

dialog in storytelling

Dialog between a mother and daughter might be gentle, while the dialog between the same mother and her husband might be strained.

Use dialog in storytelling to define your characters and their unique relationships.

“Frank, “How could you?” The mother’s anger flared red and blinding. “What kind of creep shows his 10-year-old daughter pornographic pictures? Are you out of your mind?”

A wordless squall of outrage descended on the room as they watched Jennifer slowly climb the stairs and close her bedroom door.

Tip #5: Dialog in Storytelling can Show a Character’s Personality

dialog in storytelling

How your character speaks can show the reader a great deal about a character’s personality.

Let the dialog reflect the era of your story and the place your character came from. How your character speaks should add meat to the bones of your characters.

Example: if your character stepped out on the porch and said “Stop you horrible kids. Get out of my yard.”

Or if your character said, “How would you kids like a cookie and some lemonade.”

In this example, you learn a great deal about the personality of the character, with no further explanation.

The dialog should give the reader clues about your character’s personality

Tip #6 Use Dialog to Reveal Your Setting.


Have your characters describe the things they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. See our post: Use your Setting to ‘Show’ Characters

We are told to show not tell. If the characters are talking about the things which surround them that is showing not telling.

Example: ” Williamsburg is full of history. Hear the church bell. It was brought from England in 1620.”

Example: “I really enjoy the gardens. All the homes have fragrant herbs and flowers in the yards. I especially like the yellow roses climbing the walls.”

Tip #7 Dialog Can Foreshadow Future Events.

Hint at some future event. Create suspense. Intrigue your readers. You want them to keep reading to discover what happens.

Example:” Dan is taking me to the Ritz for dinner. Do you think he might propose?”

Example: Carol took the gun out of the safe. “I don’t know what he plans to do. But I will be ready.”

Your characters can talk about things they anticipate. They can show anxiety about what they expect, or hope will happen. See our post about Foreshadowing.

Dialog, An Essential Part of Storytelling.

Make your character’s conversations count. There should be a purpose to what each character says.

dialog in storytelling for a purpose

Dialog should add value to your story.

To recap, Dialog Can:

  • Establish mood or tone.
  • Reveal character.
  • Create Tension and conflict.
  • Disclose exposition.
  • Advance plot
  • Build suspense.
  • Create foreshadowing.
  • Establish relationships
  • Reveal Backstory
  • Describe the setting.

Check out this Post for: 9 Tips to Write Dialog

puntuation for dialog


Do you think using more dialog will improve your stories?

Do you have any suggestions or comments?

We would love to chat.

Happy Writing

John & Patty @writingagreatbook 2023

Punctuation for dialog can be confusing.

Download Rules for Punctuating Dialog