Is dialogue in a novel necessary, or just padding?

Asked by: Lance Barney

Most popular novels are chock full of dialogue, and I find it easy to write. I’d feel guilty about padding out a story when I could easily paraphrase or summarise a conversation though. Is dialogue necessary? Short answer: dialogue is completely necessary, since dialogue reads completely differently from summary.

How important is dialogue in a novel?

A capable writer uses dialogue to drive a story’s plot forward, to bring the reader closer to its climax and, ultimately its conclusion. Dialogue can also help charge scenes with emotion, heightening tension between characters or building suspense ahead of a key event or turning point in the plot.

Can books have no dialogue?

Non-Epistolary Novels Without Dialogue.

What percentage of a novel should be dialogue?

Some non-genre novels have higher proportions: The Great Gatsby has 51.32%; Martin Eden has 50.58%. And some genre novels are more narrative-heavy: The Da Vinci Code has 29.59%.



Proportion of dialogue in novels.

Novel The secret adversary
Date 1922
Total chars 425692
Quote chars 228143
Percent 53.59%

Should a book have a lot of dialogue?

Dialogue is a critical part of any story, so it’s rare to have “too much.” What’s more likely is either dialogue that isn’t helping convey the story or too little of something else–too little internalization, description, stage direction, or “action.” So if you feel there’s too much dialogue, check to see what might …

Can dialogue occur without the use of words?

A dialogue as a form of communication has a verbal connotation. While communication can be an exchange of ideas and information by non-verbal signals, behaviors, as the etymology connotes, dialogue implies the use of language.

What are the rules for dialogue?

How to Format Dialogue in a Story

  • Use Quotation Marks to Indicate Spoken Word. …
  • Dialogue Tags Stay Outside the Quotation Marks. …
  • Use a Separate Sentence for Actions That Happen Before or After the Dialogue. …
  • Use Single Quotes When Quoting Something Within the Dialogue. …
  • Use a New Paragraph to Indicate a New Speaker.
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Why is dialog necessary?

Dialogue is a useful tool for developing your characters and moving your plot forward. Dialogue can help you establish the backstory, and it can reveal important plot details that the reader may not know about yet. Dialogue is great for ratcheting up the tension between characters. Dialogue can also establish the mood.

How do you tell a story without dialog?

Shorter videos tend to work best without dialogue. The narrative is condensed, and the action on screen is enough to keep your audience enthralled. Granted, there are plenty of examples of feature-length films that succeeded without words, like A Quiet Place, or any of these other silent hits.

How do you write without dialogue?

And all represented on screen through actions secondly limiting your characters lines on screen is easier if they don't have someone with which to communicate.

Can novels be dialogue heavy?

If you’re sure that’s not what’s going on, then there’s nothing wrong with a novel being dialogue heavy. Famous examples have already been named. Character driven novels with lots of verbal interaction between characters sound good to me.

Do all books have prologues?

Not every book needs a prologue and if yours truly doesn’t, the actual prologue can then take away from the book, giving away too much or being irrelevant in general. So let’s figure out if your book actually needs a prologue or not.

How do you not write Cringey dialogue?

Cheesy dialogue is one-hundred-percent avoidable. Get in the habit of writing for pace. Include fragments. Read your dialogue out loud.



Contractions make speech natural and help dialogue flow.

  1. Name Calling. …
  2. Improper Punctuation. …
  3. Speaking of Tags. …
  4. Who Said What?
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What are some common mistakes in writing dialogue?

6 Mistakes in Writing Dialogue

  • Mistake #1: Dialogue that doesn’t sound natural. …
  • Mistake #2: Dialogue that sounds TOO natural. …
  • Mistake #3: Formatting problems. …
  • Mistake #4: Summarizing when you should use dialogue. …
  • Mistake #5: Using dialogue when you should summarize. …
  • Mistake #6: Characters who all speak alike.


What is cheesy dialogue?

Cheesy dialogue uses cliche idioms and phrases, as well as one-liners. These are common in action movies or stories that don’t need much imput from the characters, so they can add any useless banter to make some sound.

What should writers try to avoid when writing dialogue?

10 Dialogue Errors Writers Should Avoid

  • Stilted exchanges – Your dialogue may not sound natural. …
  • Similar voices – Make sure that each character has a distinct voice. …
  • Small talk – This ‘filler’ dialogue does not advance the plot or our understanding of the characters.

Can you end a scene with dialogue?

Of course it’s okay. Sometimes you can make a really great transition out of it. Sometimes its the more powerful note to go out on. The reason people like to end with a line of action is because it keeps the story flowing.

How do you yell in a script?

Simply removing the parenthetical and adding an exclamation point is all you need to indicate someone’s yelling a line.

What does OC mean in a script?

off camera

means “off camera” — it is an archaic term that means the same thing as O.S. Don’t worry about O.C. and don’t use it. V.O. means “voice over” — a voice originates from outside the scene location.

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Is a beat a pause in a script?

A Beat Is Not a Pause



The writer chooses to use the parenthesis to convey a pause in line delivery by using the term beat. This is an acting reference that has many different types of meanings, only one of which implies a pause.

How do you show interrupting in a script?

One easy way to show one character interrupting another is to use double-dashes or an ellipsis to indicate the first character’s dialogue is being interrupted.

What does underlining mean in a script?

Generally speaking, underlining words seems the most helpful when needing to provide additional emphasis within writing that already has a fair amount of emphasis. In short, it’s best employed within others.

Does screenplay have too much dialogue?

This rule is consistent for any script (TV, short film, etc.) and equates to at least three lines of dialogue on every page. When you know and understand the rules of screenwriting, you have the power to break them. In the case of screenplay dialogue ratios, you may find 40-60% to be too much or little.

How do you write someone getting cut off in dialogue in a script?

Use an em dash inside the quotation marks to cut off the character mid-dialogue, usually with either (A) another character speaking or (B) an external action.

How long should a dialogue be in a screenplay?

Too Much Dialogue



A script is not a play. Your goal is NOT to have dialogue that looks like a bunch of monologues. Try to keep 95% of your dialogue to 3 lines or less on the page.