Submitted Date 01/29/2019

Creating engaging dialogue is a challenge that frustrates and bewilders many writers. Although we use dialogue constantly in our daily lives, most of it isn’t worthy of a best-selling novel. It takes some serious skill to develop conversations that are attention-grabbing, while moving your storyline forward. Most compelling conversations we read include some form of emotional climax. Hence, you would do well to consider whether the dialogue you've penned shows a character’s anger, joy, love, fear, indifference, or some other striking emotion. Conversations should also draw attention to your characters' distinct personalities (perhaps one character angers easily at the other's general indifference). Before continuing, I’d like to make a note that you probably don’t need to be using dialogue tags, i.e. s/he: said, yelled, shouted, whispered, etc., as much as you currently do. Your reader is likely to be able to follow who is talking in a two-person conversation just fine. You can simplify story dialogue by using quotations marks and clear line breaks. That said, there are situations where the clarity of who said what is important. This is generally at the beginning of a conversation or when more than two people are speaking. In addition, descriptions before or after quoted text can help the reader paint a picture of the conversation or get to know the personalities of the characters better. The following can be used alongside dialogue tags to convey emotion and to add intrigue and depth to your story.

ANGER: bluntly, crassly, disruptively, frankly, impatiently, impulsively, obnoxiously, resentfully, shrewdly, spitefully, sternly. Example: "I'm not going," she said bluntly.

JOY: cheerfully, energetically, exuberantly, happily, joyously, keenly, lightheartedly, playfully, warmly, whimsically, vivaciously. Example: "Let's go together!" she shouted energetically.

LOVE: attentively, affectionately, gently, lovingly, passionately, reassuringly, sweetly, sincerely, thoughtfully, tenderly. Example: "I'll go if you go," she whispered lovingly.

FEAR: distraughtly, hesitantly, mildly, nervously, quietly, restlessly, reluctantly, slowly, suspiciously, timidly, uncertainly. Example: "Pleeeaaase don't make me go," he moaned nervously.

INDIFFERENCE: absent-mindedly, apathetically, carelessly, condescendingly, plainly, somberly, superficially, thoughtlessly. Example: "Go if you want," he mumbled apathetically.


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  • James D. 4 years, 10 months ago

    These are good tips. It’s hard to get rid of all the “he said, she said”s. Also love the word exuberantly!

  • James D. Lierow Jr. 4 years, 9 months ago

    Thank you for the ideas. I will look for opportunities to use them in the future.

  • Tomas Chough 4 years, 9 months ago

    Great tips Andrea! I should pay more attention to this when I write. Awesome way to make writing more entertaining and creative. I'll definitely be implementing your advice. Thanks a lot!

  • Miranda Fotia 4 years, 8 months ago

    Great mood adjectives! Thanks for sharing!