Dialogue—no tension

All dialogue should have some type of conflict. Exchange of information or small-talk is boring and slows the reading flow. The characters don’t need to be fighting with each other, but there should be something one of the characters is fighting FOR. Fighting to hide information, fighting to obtain information, fighting to right a wrong, fighting to convince the other.

In the words of Randy Ingermanson (Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine), “Dialogue is war.” A dialogue with two strong forces has the energy to propel the story forward. It tends to be highly emotional, but at the same time very simple and direct (unlike actual conversation in real life). The best way to have both emotion and simplicity is to lay the dialogue down first and then go back later to refine, cut, clarify.

Because dialogue is emotional, it also tends to be more give-and-take, more back-and-forth. In our modern publishing industry, it’s rare to have a character go on and on without the other character responding. Each character reacts to the previous line of dialogue.