The Oxford dictionary defines dialogue together ‘a conversation between two or an ext people together a function of a book, play, or film’ (OED). Yet the ‘or more’ (dialogue between more than 2 characters) is often confusing come write. Exactly how do girlfriend write and format dialogue fine in a step involving more than two characters? here are some tips:


The Oxford dictionary specifies dialogue as ‘aconversation between two or much more people together a attribute of a book, play, or film’ (OED). However the ‘or more’ (dialogue between more than two characters) is often confusing come write. Just how do friend write and format dialogue well in a step involving an ext than two characters? right here are some tips:

1. Place your characters clearly within your scene

In a stage play, it’s basic to phone call who’s speaking most of the time due to the fact that the characters are positioned ~ above the phase so that we know where every voice is comes from. Us don’t have actually this aural (hearing) facet in a book, of course. To write clearer dialogue between multiple characters, start by put characters clearly in a scene.

You are watching: A conversation between two or more characters

For example, imagine a it s too dirty exchange in a kitchen. If you chair one personality mid-activity (e.g. Chopping onions), and also have the various other two was standing by a sink, girlfriend can display who is speaking by dropping in these elements of ‘staging’:

Sarah to be chopping onions, scrunching she eyes tight and also trying not to remove a thumb.

“Could you two avoid bickering for a second?” She put down her knife, glaring over to wherein Tom and Judy lounged versus the dual sink.

Tom turn to wash his hands, grumbling, “I just came in to wash my hands. Why execute we always end up talking national politics anyway?”

“Because yours are so freaking shitty,” Judy said, she voice soft together Sarah captured her eye, reflecting with a withering rigid her displeasure at she daughter’s casual cursing.

Here the simple actions and also objects in the step – the table v the vegetables, the sinks, give us a sense of characters’ position in relation to every other.

Note how you don’t need unlimited ‘he said’ and also ‘she said’ (dialogue tags). There’s only one ‘said’ (Judy’s) in this piece, however it’s clean throughout (through character placement and also action) that is speak what.


2. Practice writing dialogue with and also without closeups

Another convention we have in film and also TV the we attain differently in composing is the ‘close-up’. In a show, we might see a close-up of a character’s face as they provide a particularly emotional, funny or beguiling line. In dialogue in books, we have to achieve these impacts using character description.

As is the instance in TV and also film, it is in sparing through visual closeups of personalities in dialogue. Showing characters’ deals with is a useful way to describe how personalities react come conversation once there are an ext than two in a scene. However if every new line of dialogue is one animated facial description, your story could start come read favor a soap opera or children’s book. For example:

Sarah stopped chopping.

“Will you stop this consistent bickering?” She glared at her children.

Tom glowered and turned his earlier to wash his hands, grumbling, “I just came in to to wash my hands. Why carry out we constantly end increase talking politics anyway?”

Judy rolled she eyes. “Because yours room so shitty,” she smirked, however Sarah captured her eye and also glared, reflecting her displeasure at she daughter’s casual cursing.

Although this isn’t ‘wrong’,balanceis key. Here, the constant focus top top characters’ facial expressions is at least broken up and given range by Tom washing his hands.

Practice rewriting a piece of dialogue through facial descriptions because that every line of dialogue. Then try rewrite the same dialogue and make characters’ words interact the emotions their deals with showed before. Take it out any type of narration describing your faces. Which works better?

3. Offer each character a distinctive voice

‘Voice’ is a critical element of creating dialogue. In stage, film and also TV we have actually the sound of separation, personal, instance characters’ voices and their identifying features (the means they laugh, if lock sigh a lot when they’re sad or bored, etc.) come tell personalities apart. In writing, dialogue demands to convey this differentiating facets with words.

When us talk about characters’ ‘voices’, we don’t just mean the soundof a voice. It’s also the personality – the personality – that shines v their speech. Details such as:

Favourite subjects (for example, a Charles Dickens character might humble-brag a lot about how poor they were farming up to show others they’re a self-made man)Striking vocal features (a high/low/soft/loud voice, speak fast, speak slow, slurred speech)Vocabulary (does a personality speak mostly in elegant, complicated phrases, or is your speech rough about the edges?)

Here’s an example from George Eliot’s standard novelMiddlemarchillustrating the above. The character sir James wooing Dorothea, yet she’s an ext interested in the dry, pious mr Casaubon and is annoyed by sir James’ attention. Dorothea’s sister Celia is much more interested in sir James herself. Teacher James starts:

‘I saw you ~ above Saturday cantering over the hill ~ above a nag no worthy the you. My groom shall bring Corydon for you every day, if you will only cite the time.’‘Thank you, friend are really good. I average to provide up riding. Ns shall no ride any type of more,’ claimed Dorothea, urged to this brusque resolution by a small annoyance that teacher James would be soliciting her attention when she want to give it all to grandfather Casaubon.‘No, the is also hard,’ stated Sir James, in a ton of reproach that showed strong interest. ‘Your sisters is provided to self-mortification, is she not?’ the continued, turning to Celia, who sat in ~ his ideal hand.‘I think she is,’ claimed Celia, feeling afraid lest she must say something that would not please her sister, and also blushing as prettily as possible above her necklace.

The tone of teacher James’ voice is chivalrous. Single-minded Dorothea’s voice by to compare is curt, abrupt. She sentences are short and also full of objective (‘You are… ns mean… ns shall not’). Compare to Celia’s voice, i beg your pardon is much more uncertain, and also shows just how the younger sister tiptoes approximately her larger sister due to the fact that of Dorothea’s high standards concerning people’s words and behaviour.

James’ subject (lending Dorothea a steed to ride) is usual of the character. He appears generous and also affable. Solicitous (aiming come please) suggestions are usual of him. Celia’s uncertainty and hesitance in her dialogue is an in similar way typical. Through the kinds the things personalities say, we tell lock apart in dialogue easier. Eliot also uses little elements that staging (Celia sit at James’ best hand) to clarify the focal distance character for each heat of dialogue.


4. Use dialogue tags where important to store dialogue clear

Dialogue tags space a important evil – use too countless of castle in one conversation in between characters, and your leader becomes too aware of the author’s presence.

For example, you might solve the trouble of how to compose dialogue in between multiple characters simply by putting ‘ said’ after each utterance:

‘I desire to walk to the beach,’ James said.‘Ugh, too lot sand,’ woman said.‘You’re such a killjoy,’ sarah said.

This isn’tcompletelybad. The characters’ voices are at least identified clearly: woman is plainly dramatic and perhaps a tiny negative. Sarah’s accusing tone renders her sound prefer the scolding, judgmental one of the group. James just states a clean desire, hence his voice is much more neutral.

Even so, the end-placement of each dialogue tag is clunky. You can rewrite the exact same better, thus:

‘I desire to walk to the beach.’‘Ugh,why,James? Too lot sand!’ mrs shuddered.‘You’re such a killjoy,’ buy it said.

Here’s why the above is better:

There’s more anticipation and also delay: we wonder (until the following line), that spoke the desire to go to the beachThe author’s presence is subtler (there’s much less of a feeling of ‘here the writer is using dialogue sign to display who’s speaking’) – conversation tags are less intrusiveSome sign are replaced with gesture and action, emphasizing the emotionbehindcharacters’ indigenous (‘Jane shuddered’)We recognize who claimed the very first line thanks to one more character utilizing the speaker’s surname in an answer –contextsupplies some of the information

Try write a item of dialogue utilizing ‘he/she/other pronoun said’ ~ every utterance. Then leave part lines without dialogue tags, adjust others to gestures or actions, and think carefully about where a merely dialogue tag (‘said’) would certainly make the many sense.

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