Using Dialogue in a Personal Narrative

The key to dialogue is to find a happy medium. Don’t use too much dialogue or too little. Dialogue helps the reader learn about the personalities of the characters in the story.

          How do you know where to add dialogue to the story?

Use dialogue to:

* tell someone else in the story what you did.

* tell what you said.

* tell someone else in the story what another person did.

* tell what someone said.

Example from the chapter ‘Trauma’ in Under the Influence by Phil Hamman, in which there is a balance of dialogue.

    “What’s going on? Who’s bleeding?” I yelled.

     But my question was lost in the air as they continued yelling at each other. I followed the blood trail which grew in volume as I approached the bathroom.

This has more impact than writing this:

     I didn’t what was going on or who was bleeding. They continued yelling at each other. I followed the blood trail which grew in volume as I approached the bathroom.

Let your personality come through by what you say and how you say it. Don’t worry about saying the ‘right’ thing or always using correct grammar in your dialogue unless that’s the way it was really spoken.

Example from the chapter ‘Bullies and the Bus From Hell’:

The Maggot had beady eyes that were set too close together, discolored teeth, and an odd body odor. I feared him as much as anyone, but on that day the name just slipped out.

       “Oh, you think you’re tough enough to call me Maggot, huh? I’ll tell you what: I’m not getting off at my bus stop. I’m getting off at yours!” was his response.

The example above is an effective use of dialogue because only the part that was actually spoken is used. It’s a better way of showing The Maggot’s personality than to write:

 The Maggot had beady eyes that were set too close together, discolored teeth, and an odd body odor. I feared him as much as anyone, but on that day the name just slipped out. The Maggot got mad when I called him this and told me that he was going to wait and get off at my bus instead of getting off at his own bus stop.