How To Write Dialogue In Narrative Essay

What is Dialogue?

Dialogue is the written conversational exchange between two or more characters.

How to Write Dialogue

Conventional English grammar rules tell us that you should always start a new paragraph when someone speaks in your writing.

“Let’s get the heck out of here right now,” Mary said, turning away from the mayhem.

John looked around the pub. “Maybe you’re right,” he said and followed her towards the door.

Sometimes, though, in the middle of a narrative paragraph, your main character needs to speak.

Mary ducked away from flying fists. The fight at the pub was getting out of control. One man was grabbing bar stools and throwing them at others, and while she watched, another one who you could tell worked out regularly grabbed men by their shirt collars and tossed them out of the way. Almost hit by one flying person, she turned to John and said, “Let’s get the heck out of here right now.”

John looked around the pub. “Maybe you’re right,” he said and followed her towards the door.

In my research, I couldn’t find any hard and fast rules that govern how to use dialogue in the middle of a narrative paragraph. It all depends on what style manual your publisher or editorial staff follow.

For example, in the Chicago Manual of Style, putting dialogue in the middle of paragraphs depends on the context. As in the above example, if the dialogue is a natural continuation of the sentences that come before, it can be included in your paragraph. The major caveat is if someone new speaks after that, you start a new paragraph and indent it.

On the other hand, if the dialogue you’re writing departs from the sentences that come before it, you should start a new paragraph and indent the dialogue.

The fight at the pub was getting out of control. One man was grabbing bar stools and throwing them at others, and another one who you could tell worked out regularly grabbed men by their shirt collars and tossed them out of the way.

“Let’s get the heck out of here right now,” Mary said, turning away from the mayhem.

John looked around the pub. “Maybe you’re right,” he said and followed her towards the door.

Punctuation for dialogue stays consistent whether it’s included in your paragraph or set apart as a separate paragraph. We have a great article on how to punctuate your dialogue here: Where Does Punctuation Go in Dialogue?

It’s often a stylistic choice whether to include your dialogue as part of the paragraph. If you want your dialogue to be part of the scene described in preceding sentences, you can include it.

But if you want your dialogue to stand out from the action, start it in the next paragraph.

We’d love to hear in the comments how you handle dialogue within narrative paragraphs. Share your examples below.


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There are two types of dialogue: direct and indirect

Direct dialogue is speech using the character’s exact words. In this case, quotation marks are used.

Indirect dialogue is a second-hand report of something that was said or written but NOT the exact words in their original form.

When writing a narrative essay, you are telling a story. That story can become confusing for the reader, though, when dialogue is added, unless it’s very clear who is doing the talking. Knowing how to quote someone in an essay can help your reader more easily follow the flow and action of the story.


Let’s focus on the writing of direct dialogue by looking at some narrative essay example sentences.

There are some rules to follow when writing direct dialogue in your narratives:

Rule #1: Use quotation marks to indicate the words that are spoken by the characters.

Example: “Help me!” exclaimed the little girl.


Rule #2: Always begin a new paragraph when the speaker changes.

Example:
“I am coming home,” Sue announced. “I am really tired and can’t work anymore.”
“Okay, I think you should do that,” her husband agreed.


Rule #3: Make sure the reader knows who is doing the talking.


Rule #4: Use correct punctuation marks and capitalization.

Example:
“May I buy a new pair of shoes?” Lauren asked her mom.

Note that the quotation marks are outside the end punctuation of the quote; the rest of the sentence has its own end punctuation.

If the quote is not a question or exclamation, use a comma and not a period before the second quotation marks.

“I bought a new jacket yesterday,” Tammy said.

 


Time4Writing provides practice in this area. Sign up for our Middle School Essay Writing course or browse other related courses to find a course that’s right for you.

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