5 Practical Tips for Teaching Dialogue Writing in Literature
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Model dialogue writing
  2. Create dialogue prompts
  3. Encourage revision
  4. Use literature examples
  5. Teach the mechanics

One of the most engaging aspects of literature is the interaction between characters, which is often conveyed through dialogue. Teaching students how to craft compelling and realistic dialogue can bring their stories alive, making them more relatable and engaging. This blog post provides five practical tips to teach dialogue writing in literature, helping students to create dialogues that reflect the characters' personalities and drive the plot forward.

Model Dialogue Writing

Before students can effectively write dialogue, it's beneficial to model the process for them. This allows students to understand the structure, tone, and purpose of dialogue in literature. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to model dialogue writing in a classroom setting.

Show Your Process

Start by sharing your thought process as you craft a piece of dialogue. Here's a simple way to do that:

  • Think aloud as you create a character and consider their personality traits, background, and motivations.
  • Consider the situation or conflict the character is in and how it affects their speech.
  • Write down the dialogue, explaining your choices — for instance, the words you choose, the tone of voice, and the pacing.

Demonstrate Dialogue Revision

After writing the initial dialogue, show your students how to revise it. Revision is an integral part of writing, and it's important to teach students that first drafts are not final drafts. Here's how you can demonstrate dialogue revision:

  1. Read the dialogue aloud. This can help identify awkward phrasing and inconsistencies in the character's voice.
  2. Identify areas of improvement such as making the dialogue more natural or more reflective of the character's personality.
  3. Make the necessary changes, again explaining your thought process and the reasons behind your revisions.

Practice with Students

Once you've modeled the process, have your students try their hand at dialogue writing. Here are a few steps to guide them:

  • Have students create their own characters and situations. This allows them to apply what they've learned from your demonstration.
  • Encourage them to share their thought process as they write, fostering a collaborative learning environment.
  • Give constructive feedback on their dialogues, pointing out what they did well and what could be improved.

Modeling dialogue writing is a practical and effective way to teach dialogue writing in literature. By showing students the process, allowing them to practice, and providing constructive feedback, you are setting them up for success in their dialogue writing endeavors.

Create Dialogue Prompts

Another useful technique to teach dialogue writing in literature is by providing students with dialogue prompts. These prompts can serve as starting points, guiding students to create exciting and engaging dialogues. Let's explore three ways you can create and use dialogue prompts in your classroom.

Character-Based Prompts

Firstly, create prompts based on different types of characters. For instance, you might ask students to write a dialogue between two characters who are complete opposites. Here's how to go about it:

  • Describe two distinct characters — for example, a timid librarian and a daring explorer.
  • Ask students to imagine a situation where these two characters would interact.
  • Let them write a dialogue that reflects the personality differences between the characters.

Situation-Based Prompts

Another approach is to create prompts based on unique situations. These situations can be mundane or extraordinary, but they should encourage students to think creatively. Consider the following steps:

  1. Describe an interesting situation — for example, getting stuck in a traffic jam during a zombie apocalypse.
  2. Students then create characters who would be in that situation.
  3. They write a dialogue that captures the characters' reactions to the situation.

Emotion-Based Prompts

Lastly, consider prompts that focus on specific emotions. This can help students explore how characters express feelings through dialogue. Here's an effective way to do it:

  • Pick an emotion — for example, surprise.
  • Students create characters and a situation that would evoke this emotion.
  • They write a dialogue that shows the characters experiencing and expressing surprise.

Dialogue prompts are a fun and interactive way to teach dialogue writing in literature. They allow students to explore different characters, situations, and emotions, and they provide a structured framework for students to develop their dialogue writing skills. Remember, the goal is not to confine their creativity, but to guide it.

Encourage Revision

The task of dialogue writing can be both exciting and challenging for students. Just like any other skill, it takes practice and revision to master. Encouraging students to revise their work not only enhances their dialogue writing skills but also instills a habit of self-improvement. Here's how you can facilitate revision in your classroom.

Peer Review

One of the best ways to encourage revision is through peer review. It gives students the chance to learn from each other and improve their work based on feedback. Here's a simple way to conduct peer reviews:

  1. After a dialogue writing exercise, pair up students and have them exchange their work.
  2. Ask them to read their partner's dialogue and provide constructive feedback. They might comment on the flow of the dialogue, the characterization, or the expression of emotions.
  3. Each student then takes their partner's feedback and revises their dialogue accordingly.


Self-assessment is another effective tool for revision. It allows students to critically evaluate their own work and identify areas they need to improve. Here's a method you can use:

  • After a dialogue writing exercise, ask students to reread their dialogues and think about what they like and what they would like to improve.
  • They can then make revisions based on their self-assessment.

Teacher Feedback

Lastly, your feedback as a teacher is crucial in the revision process. Your expertise can guide students to improve their dialogue writing. Here's a way to provide effective feedback:

  1. After a dialogue writing exercise, take some time to review each student's work.
  2. Highlight what they did well and provide suggestions for improvement.
  3. Students then revise their dialogue based on your feedback.

Remember, revision is an essential part of learning to write dialogue in literature. It's not about getting it right the first time, but about getting better each time. So, encourage your students to embrace the revision process—it's where the real learning happens!

Use Literature Examples

While teaching dialogue writing in literature, using examples from well-known books can be incredibly beneficial. It provides students with a practical understanding of how dialogue can drive the plot, reveal character traits, and create tension or humor. Let's explore how we can use literature examples effectively.

Selecting the Right Examples

When choosing literature examples to teach dialogue writing, consider the following:

  • Choose examples that are appropriate for your students' age and reading level.
  • Select excerpts where dialogue plays a significant role in advancing the plot or revealing character traits.
  • Look for dialogues that use a variety of techniques, like using dialogue tags or action beats, to provide a comprehensive learning experience.

Discussing the Examples

Once you've selected the examples, it's time to discuss them with your students. Here's a simple approach:

  1. Read the dialogue aloud in class, asking students to pay attention to how the dialogue moves the story forward or reveals information about the characters.
  2. Engage the students in a discussion about what they noticed. What made the dialogue effective? What techniques did the author use?
  3. Encourage students to think about how they can apply these techniques in their own dialogue writing.

Practicing with the Examples

After discussing the examples, let's put the learning into practice. Here's how:

  • Ask students to rewrite the example dialogue in their own words, maintaining the same plot advancement or character revelation.
  • Encourage them to explore different techniques they've learned from the examples.
  • Review their work and provide constructive feedback.

Remember, the goal is not to copy the examples, but to learn from them and incorporate those learnings into their own dialogue writing. Using literature examples is an effective way to teach dialogue writing in literature and can help students better understand the role and mechanics of dialogue in storytelling.

Teach the Mechanics

Now that we have discussed using literature examples, let's move on to the nuts and bolts of dialogue writing. Understanding the mechanics is vital to teach dialogue writing in literature. It's like learning how to drive a car — you need to know how to steer, when to brake, and when to accelerate to drive effectively. Let's break it down.

Understanding Punctuation

Punctuation can make or break dialogue. It's the difference between a smooth, engaging conversation and a confusing, jumbled mess. Here are some basics:

  • Each time a new person speaks, start a new paragraph.
  • Use quotation marks (" ") at the start and end of spoken words.
  • The punctuation mark at the end of the dialogue (., !, ?) goes inside the quotation marks.

Using Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags are the "he said" or "she asked" parts of dialogue. They help the reader know who's speaking. Here's how to use them effectively:

  1. Try to place the dialogue tag as close as possible to the start of the dialogue. It helps the reader know who's speaking right away.
  2. Use dialogue tags sparingly. It's not necessary after every line of dialogue.
  3. Don't get fancy with dialogue tags. Stick to "said" or "asked" most of the time. It keeps the focus on the dialogue, not the tags.

Incorporating Action Beats

Action beats are small actions or descriptions that break up dialogue and add depth to the scene. They can also help indicate who's speaking. Here are some tips:

  • Use action beats to show what the characters are doing while they're speaking.
  • Consider the character's personality and mood when writing action beats. An angry character might slam a door, while a nervous one might wring their hands.
  • Don't overdo it. Too many action beats can distract from the dialogue.

Teaching the mechanics of dialogue writing might seem daunting, but it becomes much easier when broken down into these manageable parts. Remember, practice makes perfect. Encourage your students to apply these mechanics in their dialogue writing exercises and provide them with constructive feedback. This hands-on experience is the best way for them to learn how to write dialogue effectively in literature.

If you're looking to expand your knowledge on dialogue writing and enhance your teaching skills, check out the workshop 'Scriptwriting' by Jessy Moussallem. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and techniques on scriptwriting, which can be applied to teaching dialogue writing in literature. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from an expert in the field!