Suggested types of Dialogue An Excerpt from Conflict, Action & Suspense By William Noble

The most obvious form of conflict is confrontation, and conflict develops action and conflict for our characters and the stories plotline. This type of dialogue is an excellent way to develop confrontation.

  • Ex: “I’m calling the police!”
  • “You’d better wait.”
  • “We must tell them.”
  • “Not tonight, we don’t.”


Since people are rarely responsive to one another, more often than not they are evasive or partial in their answers.

  • EX: 1. “Would you tell me your name, please?”
    “Why do you want to know?”
  • 2.”I wish you’d pay more attention.”
    “Wow, I hate the dress that lady is wearing.”

Possible techniques of usage

  • Answer a question with a question
  • Let two or three lines of dialogue go by without the character answering a question
  • Mimic another speaker’s line
  • Have the character not answer a question posed, but have him give the answer on his own to those in the crowd or group

The Threat of the Unsaid:

Sometimes to further the plot, put your character into an emotional whirlwind. Have him/her quiet when everyone else is shouting. This technique gives you the opportunity to ramp up the tension of a scene.

  • Ex: From Raymond Carter’s, The Student’s Wife
    “You’re asleep,” she said.
    “I’m not,” Mike said.
    “I can’t think of anything else. You go now. Tell me what you like.”
    “I don’t know. Lots of things.”
    “Well, tell me. We’re just talking, aren’t we?”
    “I wish you’d leave me alone, Nan.” He turned over to his side of the bed again and let his arm rest off the edge. She turned too, and pressed against him.

Self-talk/Inner Monologue:

Unlike a thought, an internal monologue is usually one character’s dialogue with him/her self. Because it’s in one person’s and there is no other character to bounce the lines off, this should mirror the jumbled, disjointed thoughts that fly through our heads. Something like the following:

  • Ex: …what do I know about boats, I’m a musician, there are some better, a lot worse… but boats are scary, and I hide in this closet they call a head, waiting for something to show while jazz riffs flow through my head… and I know I don’t belong here because boats can sink.


This technique is different than an action tag in that it has more to do with the subtext of the scene. It can show the character’s attitude as well as his/her hidden intentions without stating them in the line of dialogue.

  • Ex: Karen laid her hand on Max’s arm. “I need your opinion.”
    “I don’t know what you want from me.”
    “Well, can’t you tell me what you think?”
    Max’s eyes never left the mirror while he spoke. “I’m not sure I have an opinion.”

(Think about it, what does the red portions of this dialogue exchange show about the subtext of the scene?)

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