Writing Good Dialogue

How to bring your characters to life

Joe DeRouen
7 min readApr 17, 2022


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Good dialogue won’t save a bad story, but bad dialogue can ruin a good story. Good, realistic dialogue that enhances a story rather than stops it in its tracks will bring your characters to life and is paramount to writing successful fiction.

But what is good dialogue? Good dialogue is easy to understand, moves the story forward, and makes your characters come alive.

Here are some quick Dos and Don’ts:

Image licensed from AdobeStock


Use dialogue to move the story forward

Dialogue in fiction is an economical representation of the real thing. In addition to being realistic, it must be purposeful. Read your dialogue and ask whether it has a function. Does it establish tone or mood? Does it reveal anything about the plot or characters? Does it add to the relationship that the reader is building with the speaker? Does it add or create conflict? If it doesn’t have a purpose, delete it.

“If we don’t get to the mall by six, they’ll be out of cookies,” said Gavin.

This piece of dialogue moves the story along, and now we know that Gavin’s goal is to get to the mall before the cookies run out.

Break up dialogue with action

Breaking up the dialogue is especially useful when handling large sections of speech which a reader may find tedious. Including actions alongside dialogue also gives the reader a sense of the conversation taking place in the real world, which elevates the conversation above mere words on a page.

Sheriff Ruskin,” said Shawn, as he slipped into his denim jacket, “if we’re going to have any chance of catching Gavin before he steals the cookies, we’d better get going.”

Action breaks the dialogue into smaller pieces, making it easier for the reader to digest.

Vary the use and placement of speech tags

Speech tags indicate who is speaking and are essential in following dialogue (he/she said). Varying the use and placement of the tag will help the flow of…



Joe DeRouen

Joe is a freelance writer and novelist.