Using Dialogue to Develop Characters

Dialogue isn’t merely a tool for conveying information or pushing the plot forward; it’s also an effective way to shape and reveal your characters. In this section, we will examine how dialogue can help your readers understand who your characters are at their core, from their background to their deepest desires.

Understanding Character-Driven Dialogue

Character-driven dialogue means the conversation is shaped by the unique traits of the character speaking. The character’s personality, motivations, background and mood should all be reflected in their dialogue. In other words, a character’s dialogue should be something only that character would say in that specific way.

How Dialogue Reveals Character Traits

Characters express their personalities through the way they speak. Are they verbose or laconic? Do they have a biting sense of humor or are they constantly optimistic? Dialogue allows you to show these traits instead of merely telling your readers about them.

Using Speech to Indicate Origin, Education and Status

Characters from different backgrounds and with different levels of education will naturally have different ways of speaking. A scholar might use complex sentence structures and big words, while a young child would use simpler language.

For example, consider these two lines:

  • Scholar: “The intricacies of this dilemma are as intriguing as they are confounding.”
  • Child: “I don’t really get why this is a big problem.”

Using Dialogue to Show Character Relationships

The way characters talk to each other can reveal a lot about their relationship. Are they respectful or dismissive? Familiar or formal? Here’s an example:

  • Colleagues (formal): “Would you mind reviewing this report for me, Mr. Johnson?”
  • Friends (informal): “Hey, can you give this a look?”

How Dialogue Can Reveal Characters’ Motivations and Desires

What a character chooses to talk about can hint at their motivations and desires. For example, if a character constantly talks about leaving their small town, it indicates a desire for change and adventure.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Dialogue for Character Development

  • Making all characters sound the same: Each character should have a distinctive voice.
  • Relying too much on dialect or slang: While these can help differentiate characters, overuse can make dialogue hard to read.
  • Overusing dialogue tags: Too many adverbs (e.g., he said angrily) can be distracting. Show emotion through dialogue and action instead.

Dialogue is a multifaceted tool in a writer’s arsenal. Use it wisely to develop your characters and make them come alive for your readers.