Dazzling Dialogue—Part IV

Conflict in scenes and tension between characters you’ve heard of before in writing. This time, we’ll talk about conflict in dialogue. Dialogue is the greatest way to portray conflict and tension in scenes and between characters. Argument and disagreements between even friends and allies helps to create sparkling dialogue. Click to Tweet #dazzlingdialogue #amwriting

DiAnn Mills, in her book, Dance of Character and Plot, says that conflict arises from the wants and needs of each character in a scene. “It involves inner and outer battles, and your book must have both.”

James Scott Bell says in each scene, there needs to be a reason for the conflict. Ask yourself these questions as you prepare to write a scene.

  • Is someone late?
  • What foods do the characters like or dislike?
  • If it’s a restaurant scene, how’s the service? The waiter/waitress? Kind? Polite, or snippy? Grumpy?
  • Make communication between the characters as difficult as possible.
  • Silence can be tension
  • Interruptions create tension

Let’s look at some of these separately.

Is someone late?

If it’s a first date, each POV is going to be different. They’re already nervous. What will be the response of the one who was early to the restaurant? How will the late one respond?

Food Like/Dislike Disagreements

It doesn’t have to get too argumentative here, but if someone really hates your favorite food, wouldn’t you defend why you like it?

Waiter/Waitress Service

The possibilities are endless. It’s been a long day and the waitress is exhausted. She’ll still have to go pick up her child from the babysitter, to home and cook a meal, do laundry, get the child to bed. Maybe a letter from a bill collector came just before she got to work today, and she’s not getting good tips because her nerves are frazzled. So, she’s maybe a little snippy.

Tension in Silence

Especially a first date scenario, when both parties are trying so hard to impress each other, to have a conversation lull because of a disagreement, will ramp up tension and conflict in a scene. How then, will you resolve it? Who breaks the silence and the tension?


Our characters can get just as frustrated with interruptions as we do. That can be interruption of sentences, or in the situation. A delay, in a date situation, can cause the conversation to go in many directions.

Things to think about as you construct dazzling dialogue. How can I build conflict in dialogue to reveal characters’ motivations, wants, and needs? Disagreements over small things can add up to major conflict in your dialogue, making it sparkle and shine. Click to Tweet #dazzlingdialogue #amwriting

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