Dialogue (or dialogue in American English) is a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, as well as a literary and theatrical form depicting such an exchange.
As a philosophical or didactic device, it is most closely associated in the West with Plato’s Socratic dialogue, but antecedents can also be found in other traditions, including Indian literature.
Five Authors Who Write Great Dialogue
Dialogue is a difficult beast. Many writers can create stunning descriptive passages, completely believable characters, and heart-pounding action sequences, but their dialogue is flat and pale. Here are ten authors who can spark a lively discussion.
1. Douglas Adams
In his snappy, bemused style, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series marries the fantastical with the mundane (perfectly distilled in an extraterrestrial named Ford Prefect).
Perhaps his ability to converse stems from his background as a radio drama writer before turning his Hitchhiker episodes into novels. The following is an excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
‘Drink up,’ Ford said, ‘you’ve got three pints to go.’
‘Three pints?’ Arthur inquired. ‘Around lunchtime?’
The man next to Ford smiled and nodded cheerfully. Ford completely ignored him. ‘Time is an illusion,’ he said. Lunchtime is especially stressful.’
‘Very deep,’ Arthur said, ‘you should send that into Reader’s Digest.‘ They have a page dedicated to people like you.’
2. Judy Blume
Over the years, the young adult maven has spoken to the hearts of countless teens and tweens, creating a world that is both safe and risky, honest and entertaining.
Much of her success stems from her unwavering understanding of the workings of the adolescent mind – and mouth. Are You There, God? It’s Margaret here:
Nancy addressed me as if she was my mother. ‘Margaret, you can’t possibly be missing Laura Danker.’ ‘The big blonde with the big whatsits!’
‘Oh, I noticed her right away,’ I explained. ‘She’s very attractive.’
‘Pretty!’ Nancy laughed. ‘You should be wise and avoid her.’ ‘She has a bad reputation.’
‘What exactly do you mean?’ I inquired.
‘She goes behind the A&P with him and Moose,‘ my brother claims.
‘And she’s been wearing a bra since fourth grade, and I bet she gets her period,’ Janie added.
3. Jeffrey Eugenides
Eugenides is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, and his most recent, The Marriage Plot. The Greek Detroiter is long on poetic descriptions, but he is that rare novelist whose eloquence sounds natural in the voices of his characters. In Middlesex:
‘Well, you just sort of stumble around a lot when you pretend to be blind.’ But the thing is, this blind man in Bermuda never trips. He stands up straight and knows exactly where everything is. And his ears are always picking up on things.’
I averted my gaze.
‘See, you’re insane!’
‘Yes, you are.’
‘I’m going blind,’ I admitted. ‘I’m looking you in the ear.’
‘Oh. That’s great. That’s right. That’s fantastic.’
She leaned in closer without letting go of my hand, and I heard, felt, very softly, her hot breath in my ear. ‘Hello, Tiresias,’ she said, laughing. ‘It’s me. Antigone.’
4. Barbara Kingsolver
Aside from being a well-known novelist, Kingsolver is also a poet and essayist. Her dialogue is sharp and memorable, a powerful force of meaningful emotion. The Poisonwood Bible says:
‘With all due respect,’ my father stated, ‘this is not the time or place for that type of business.’ Why don’t you sit down now and make your plans after I finish the sermon? The church is not the place to vote for or against candidates for public office.’
‘Church is the place for it,‘ Tata Ndu said. ‘Now, Kilanga village, we are voting for Jesus Christ in the office of personal God.’
For several seconds, Father did not move.
Tata Ndu looked at him, puzzled. ‘Please forgive me; I’m wondering if I paralyzed you?’
Finally, Father found his voice. ‘No, you haven’t.’
5. Toni Morrison
Morrison is regarded as one of the greatest writers of our time. Her novels are rich and tangible, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the vivid dialogue provided by her deeply textured characters. Beloved says:
‘Something funny about that gal,’ Paul D thought to himself.
‘How funny is that?’
‘She acts and sounds sick, but she doesn’t appear sick.’ ‘I have good skin, bright eyes, and the strength of a bull.’
‘She’s not a strong woman. She can’t walk without grabbing something.’
‘That’s exactly what I mean. I don’t think she can walk, but I saw her pick up the rocker with one hand.’
‘No, you didn’t.’
‘Please don’t tell me. Just ask Denver. She was right beside her.’
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Good Example of Dialogue?
“I Don’t Want to Go Home,” Julia said. “I Like It Here at the Zoo. All of the Animals Are Hilarious.” “I Didn’t Even Get to See the Elephants!” She Sobbed.
Can Novels Have a Lot of Dialogue?
If You’re Certain That’s Not the Case, There’s Nothing Wrong With a Novel Being Dialogue-heavy. Several Well-known Examples Have Already Been Given. To Me, Character-driven Novels With a Lot of Verbal Interaction Between Characters Sound Appealing.
How Much Dialogue is Too Much in a Novel?
A Lot of Small Talk Falls Into This Category and Can Easily Be Trimmed Out. While There Are No Hard and Fast Rules, a General Rule of Thumb is That Anything More Than Six Exchanges of Dialogue in a Row Without a Break Risks Losing the Reader.
What is a story dialogue?
Dialogue is a written conversation between two or more characters in a story. This could be found in a book, play, film, or any other type of story format.