How 2 Use Emotion In Character Dialogue

Gloria Kemptons book on writing dialogue

In Gloria Kempton's writing reference guide on writing Dialogue, she tells us novelists that dialogue is an accelerator. The faster you get your fictional people talking, the faster the scene moves. Cutting out any narrative or action sentences not needed will speed up your story. And she advises that you cut out any speech tags so your dialogue is at bare bones.

When creating dialogue for your characters Gloria explains that its all in the details. Whether you’re writing dialogue, action or narrative [which makes up most of your story], vivid details are what causes a reader to be able to see, hear, touch, taste and smell – in other words to be able to experience your story on a sensory level. All of these senses must come directly from the character’s point of view so the reader gets to know this fictional person on a deeper level.

Use Dialogue For Pace

Gloria tells us to only use details that enhance the mood we are trying to create and get across the emotion the character is feeling to move the plot forward. The fewer the details the more each will stand out, and the pace will quicken. Too much of anything will slow down the pace of your story.


This writing guide tutor explains that describing a setting can be done through your characters eyes and thoughts. Moving this fictional person into action and throwing in setting details as the characters are chasing each other and interacting is the better way to use description.

She recommends that us novelists never use narrative to describe a setting when we can have a viewpoint character describing the setting in a lively discussion with another fictional person.

Description in action beats static description!

Inject Emotion Into Dialogue For Impact

Most importantly, the more emotion you put into a scene the faster it moves because it heightens the tension and conflict. Characters expressing emotion are predictable and often out of control. Anything can happen so it raises the stakes.

To quicken the pace you can also use short sentences of dialogue with lots of white space on the page. If your characters shoot short phrases of dialogue back and forth at a rapid pace, your reader will be turning the pages.

According to Gloria, it doesn’t matter if the fictional character screams or whispers, what does matter is whether the emotion is fear, sadness, joy anger. This makes them emotionally engaged with the situations and conflicts in the story and they should convey their feelings to one another through dialogue that is charged with emotion. The more emotion the better!

Heighten Tension With Dialogue

Fear creates tension, not just for the character but everyone around them. Thriller writers must become masters of revealing this emotion in their characters because their readers are looking for it. The emotion of fear speeds everything up and makes it all stand still at the same time, making the reader feel the danger.

If you want to be the kind of writer willing to make every scene of dialogue is tense and full of suspense, then you must be willing to throw your fictional people into conflict after conflict. After all, that is what successful bestselling stories are all about.

Find out more about Gloria's book on writing dialogue.

Paula Wynne is the founder of Book Hub. She started Book Hub out of a need to market and promote her own fiction. As well as running Book Hub, Paula is an author with several published books.

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