What Are the Three Functions of Dialogue in Fiction?

Dialogue is essential for fiction, many readers will find it hard to feel emotionally involved with a short story that features no dialogue.

The use of dialogue in a story is so much more than just speech, it can really transform your work.

The three main function of dialogue in fiction;

  • Progressing the plot forwards - Using dialogue between characters moves the story forwards quickly  and can dramatically increase the pace providing a fast paced gripping story. This method is vitally important in short stories where every word counts. 

  • Giving out  important background information - Dialogue exchanged between characters can be a really interesting way of providing background information that is relevant to the plot and also helps to move it along. 

  • Characterization - Characterization involves using many methods to portray a character, dialogue is just one of these methods. For dialogue to be really effective in portraying a character make sure that each word your character speaks shows the sort of person that they are. Does their speech make them sound clever or stupid? Does their speech demonstrate their background? Are they wealthy?

Another very important thing to remember when using dialogue is how to correctly support it. You can give clues to how the character is feeling by describing how they are talking. In real life most people say one thing but are secretly thinking something else.

Detailing the characters physical actions whilst talking can help with characterization.

Tom hovered nervously in the doorway, his hand poised to knock on the door, "Father?" he hesitantly called.

This description of Tom's physical actions suggest that he is feeling nervous and may have some bad news to give to his father. Using descriptions of physical actions can also help break up large chunks of dialogue.


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