Using Dialogue to Reveal a Theme

Every good story has a theme. That’s just a no-brainer, right? A theme is the central idea or message that you, the writer, want to communicate to the reader. It’s the thread that binds the entire narrative together. Themes are usually revealed through different elements like the plot, setting or character development, but dialogue can be used to do this, too!

What Is a Theme, and How Does Dialogue Convey It?

A theme isn’t just the subject of a story. It’s an insight or viewpoint about life that the story expresses. It could be about love, friendship, betrayal, courage, etc. But dialogue is the verbal exchange between characters within a narrative. It gives the reader a glimpse into your character’s thoughts, emotions and motivations. By carefully crafting dialogue, you can subtly express the themes of your story.

Techniques to Use Dialogue for Theme Revelation

Here are a few things I always keep in mind when I’m writing that I hope will help you, too.

  1. Imply your main theme through the characters’ opinions: They can express their beliefs or views that align with the story’s theme.
  2. Show conflict in dialogue: Conflict between their viewpoints can be used to highlight the theme.
  3. Symbolic dialogue: Dialogue with symbolic meaning can subtly point to the theme.
  4. Recurring phrases or questions: Characters might repeat certain phrases or questions throughout the story, which echo the theme.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Dialogue to Unveil Themes

  1. Being too explicit: Avoid having characters directly state the theme. This can feel forced and unnatural. Let your readers infer the theme from the dialogue.
  2. Overuse of thematic dialogue: Not every dialogue exchange should be about the theme. This could make your story feel preachy.
  3. Using inconsistent character voice: Make sure the dialogue stays true to each character’s personality and speech patterns.

Using dialogue to reveal a theme requires a delicate balance. It should be subtle, allowing the readers to infer the theme without feeling like it’s being directly stated. Master this, and your story’s themes will resonate powerfully with your readers.