How To Write Dialogues And Inner Monologues

This topic concerns getting your characters to talk about themselves - (internal) monologues and dialogues.

This guide will discuss constructing a dialogue to appear as realistic as possible. If you still have questions after reading this guide, please post them here.

I. Dialogues - why at all?

The story's heart is dialogue. You only get to know the characters through them because that's the only way they can interact with each other. It is easy for the characters to appear flat if all conversations are reproduced in indirect speech or even as a retelling because the characters practically only characterize themselves by talking.

That is why it is critical to include direct speech to bring characters to life. It's exhausting to read a story in which everything said is only indirectly reproduced; you don't get to know the characters and how accurate they are. Moreover, no matter how vividly feelings are described, a reader will not be drawn into a character who does not know how to speak and thus appears flat.

Furthermore, these conversations are, to a large extent, the action. To what extent, of course, it is determined by the writing style and genre. However, little would happen without dialogue because the characters could not communicate.

II. The content

First and foremost, the question of what should be present in a dialogue arises. Generally, you should use dialogues in which things that are also relevant to the plot are mentioned - no unnecessary rounds of small talk because that only exhausts the reader and makes him lose interest in reading. The plot comes to a halt due to unnecessary dialogue and drags on without changing. As a result, you should focus almost entirely on what is essential.

The exception is when a dialogue provides insight into the nature of a character. This does not have to be related to the plot but brings the reader closer to the character. As a result, he can empathize with him more effectively, allowing him to comprehend why a character behaves in a certain way in certain situations.

It should also be noted that dialogue must be logical and believable to sound good. Unless there is a compelling reason, you are unlikely to reveal your long-standing profession to someone you have known for years. A character can speak up if he feels unfairly treated because a coworker who has not held a position for a long time has been promoted, but he has not.

III. How does a dialogue sound good?

The correct word for speaking

"Hello," he murmured.

"Hans!" she said. "You wouldn't believe what happened!"

He said: "But what?"

"Your neighbor was just here and said you're leaving town!" she said.

"But Lisa! That's not true at all," said Hans.

The word say was used all the time here. This example shows: that this dialogue sounds clumsy due to the constant repetition of words and seems boring (imagine it stretching over a long period!). Also - and this is why you should avoid saying it all the time - it's impossible to adequately express the mood of the characters in this way. So how could this dialogue be reworked with other words of speech alone?

"Hello," he greeted.

"Hans!" she exclaimed. "You wouldn't believe what happened!"

He asked: "But what?"

"Your neighbor was just here and said you're leaving town!" she spat out.

"But Lisa! That's not true," Hans rumbled.

You can see all that better here - for example, Hans's annoyance at the neighbor's statement or Lisa's horror. Of course, one should not exaggerate with such words since some seem exaggerated. Such are, for example, languishing or panting. Such should only be used to a limited extent, if at all.

There seems to be an infinite number of synonyms to say, so it's almost impossible to memorize them all - let alone list them all and claim they are all. 

Adjectives of support

"Hello," he murmured loud enough for her to hear.

"Hans!" she exclaimed in a shrill voice. "You wouldn't believe what happened!"

He asked: "But what?"

"Your neighbor was just here and said you're leaving town!"

"But Lisa! That's not true," Hans rumbled.

There is little more to say about this than that you have to find good middle ground. Not too little, so that the reader can relate, but not too much, so as not to exaggerate. The characters must not appear artificial but act logically.

If you have used suitable verbs, the following applies here as an exception: less is sometimes more.

Actions, gestures, and body language

"Hello," he murmured loud enough for her to hear as he entered the room. He looked around carefully as he quietly closed the door.

"Hans!" she shrill and noisily put down the glass she had just reached for. "You wouldn't believe what happened!"

He gave her an irritated look before asking: "But what?"

"Your neighbor was just here and said you're leaving town!" Her eyes widened, and she quickly rose from her chair, taking a few steps toward him.

"But Lisa! That's not true at all”, Hans rumbled before he turned around and stormed out with hasty steps. The door slammed shut with a loud bang.

Body language makes up most of the human conversation, even if you don't want to believe it. It shows more clearly what a person or character thinks and feels than so many words could express. Also, no one stands stock still when speaking. That's why it shouldn't remain unmentioned in a dialogue.

To describe a character's gestures as realistically as possible, one should simply imagine how oneself - or someone else who resembles a character in character - would react in a situation. Over time it becomes second nature; you just write without giving it much thought. But, of course, it's also important to know the individual characters well because it's rare for a very reserved person to burst out laughing at a bad joke.

The language

The language in the dialogue differs significantly from that in the running text. It is also possible to use colloquialisms, abbreviations ('does,' 'tell,'...), and similar things that are otherwise undesirable. Direct speech, meticulously conducted according to Scripture, sounds stiff and unnatural.

However, not every character will have the same vocabulary. A young person, for example, will hardly use words that a pensioner will use - and vice versa; an older adult, will not use youth slang unless there is a good reason. Here, too, you have to go into his characters and plot. A character who grew up in a higher family and received the right education will speak more calmly than a street gang member. If you write something historical, you must be careful not to slip too much into today's language.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.

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