Dialogue is a great instigator because it can cause minor tension or set the ball rolling for something huge. It might be the end of a relationship or a global clash. Make it do double duty and use it to initiate problems for your character.

Conflict typically arises when characters don’t get what they want. Most conflicts are unintentional — the person causing the problem was not trying to ruffle feathers. It is often stemmed from personality quirks:

  • someone who is always interrupting,
  • a tactless person who unknowingly causes offense,
  • or a chronic multitasker who doesn’t listen carefully and makes your character feel undervalued.

When a character loses control of their emotions, they are much more apt to speak their mind, cut the other person down, or reveal information they meant to hold back.

Developing an ear for dialogue

is critical to writing characters your readers will want to get to know better — empathetic characters who’ll grab your readers’ interest and make them want to read about.

What they say, how they say it, who they say it to matters:

If you would rather die than have one of your characters utter a single vulgar epithet, then don’t write about a character who would.

The use of dialogue is critical in order to reveal your character’s true self.

  • get to know your characters before you attempt to discover their voices.
  • then take a moment to reflect on their personalities
  • when your character is passionate (or frustrated) about something, let them run loose

Opposing Motivations:

One of the main drivers for conflict in dialogue is that the parties involved don’t always have the same purposes. One person might be trying to connect with the protagonist while the protagonist only wants to gain information. One may be seeking to protect a secret while the other is trying to bring it to light. Another person might be pursuing a conversation because they want to show off their knowledge while the other participant only wants to prove their own rightness.


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“Linda has published sixteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish. She has mentored many authors and edited their work.”