Dialogue: what it is, definition, origin, types of dialogue, how to write dialogue and more


What is the dialogue subgenre?

In addition to being a literary subgenre that is part of the didactic genre, it has become one of the most important resources that can be found in other genres of literature, such as drama and narrative, in particular. It is a form that allows verbal or written communication in which two or more people can get involved in the exchange of ideas, thoughts, emotions, opinions, etc.

In short, dialogue is an exchange of information that takes place between a sender and a receiver, and can be presented both orally and in writing.

Meaning of the subgenre dialogue

The term dialogue comes from the Latin dialŏgus, which, in turn, comes from the Greek word that refers to a conversation between two or more people. In this conversation that takes place, ideas, thoughts, emotions, opinions, etc., are brought to light in an alternating manner in which each participant takes the floor and subsequently, listens to the other.

Definition of the subgenre dialogue

We can define dialogue as a conversation between two or more people in which the roles of sender and receiver take turns, in such a way that both take part in the communicative activity, making it a reciprocal exchange.

What is the function of dialogue?

As we mentioned, dialogue allows the oral or written communication of two or more characters within a literary work, so that in addition to being a subgenre, it is also a resource that allows the characters to express themselves.

History and origin of the dialogue subgenre

It is considered that the birth of dialogue was cultivated in Greece starting with Socrates, who would use the resource as an instrument to consult philosophical truths through debate with other resources such as mayeutics. However, all this was possible to know thanks to Plato, who wrote the manifestations of his master, in addition to other authors. Later, around the 2nd century A.D., authors such as Lucian of Samosata appeared, who composed dialogues with particular satirical intentions regarding beliefs, but also shortcomings of the society of the time as a form of criticism.

Definition of the subgenre dialogue

With the diffusion of this resource, authors such as Cicero appeared in Rome, who expanded the dimensions of the parliaments to provide them with new values based on speeches. However, with the arrival of the Middle Ages, the dialogue begins to detach itself from the philosophical field to become part of another genre that would allow it to expose its didactic intention, which also allows it to become a new subgenre that appears with the formulation of questions and answers that facilitates the manifestation of the wit of the authors.

Characteristics of the dialogue subgenre

Let us now look at some essential characteristics that allow dialogue to develop correctly:

Interlocutors: in order to generate a dialogue, it is necessary to have at least two interlocutors who participate in the conversation, since there must be a change of roles between the sender, that is, the one who sends the message, and the receiver, the one who receives it, so that positions can be exchanged. This is what we call dialogue, since the interventions take turns.

Form of presentation: as we mentioned, another characteristic of dialogue is that it can be presented both orally and in writing. Oral, as it happens in plays, which are written in the libretto, or completely written, which is the form in which they appear in works such as novels, where the characters manifest themselves through the written text that is read by the reader.

Paralinguistic signs: these are elements that are present within the dialogue and that allow us to identify moments in which the voice can be intensified, as well as the kinesic signs of the dialogue, which show the gestures when articulating the words of the dialogue and even the postures taken by the characters. This is one of the unique elements used in literature.

Topics: as we know, the conversations that can arise between characters in a given situation can be infinite, and the same is true of literary dialogues, since they can range from a friendly and calm conversation to a very powerful discussion between the participants or interlocutors.

Location of the dialogue: another basic element that must be taken into account is that the dialogue can be present in almost any type of literary subgenre, whether or not it belongs to the didactic genre as well, or to the narrative genre as in the short story, the novel or the fable, or in the lyrical genre in poetry, or in the dramatic genre through plays.

Characterization of characters: one of the facilities that dialogue allows is precisely the way in which it is possible to identify and characterize the characters, since dialogue, being its most direct form of manifestation of thought, is capable of revealing their intentions, ideas, emotions, moods and in general, that which cannot be perceived through the physical or described posture of the character.

Types of dialogue subgenre

Although dialogue in literature exists on the basis of a series of parameters and structures, there are also other types of dialogues from which it is important to distinguish them for their use. Therefore, it is worth reviewing the types of dialogue that exist:

Literary dialogues

These are all types of dialogues or conversations that appear in artistic works, such as short stories, plays, novels, film productions, among others. These dialogues, in turn, can be developed in two ways:

Internal dialogue

These are conversations that occur within the character’s thoughts and may draw on memories or imagination. They are set within the character’s internal self, as they occur in his or her head.

External dialogue

They are all those that involve more characters, so that they build a conversation that takes place within the plot of the story that is being developed.

On the other hand, we find the non-literary dialogues, those that arise without being linked to any type of artistic manifestation, so that they are absent from the works and occur within the everyday life of human beings. In this sense, it is possible to classify them as follows:

Formal dialogue

They are those that relate people of little confidence, usually under established protocols of seriousness and respect. They often take place in the work and business environment.

Informal dialogue

They take place between people of great trust, often family, friends and close people, so that they can include much more natural expressions, far from formalism, without breaking with respect.

Other types of dialogue

Direct dialogue

It is a dialogue that allows to verify and prove what each of the participants says within the dialogue, so that when it is written, each participation is divided by lines of dialogue that allow to observe the information that each one of them contributes.

Indirect dialogue

In this case, it is the narrator who gives an account of what each of the participants says, so that the content is presented by a third person who communicates what each interlocutor says.

Spontaneous dialogue

These are free and spontaneous dialogues that are usually present in the most common modes of communication between two people, similar to an informal conversation.

Organized dialogue

This type of dialogue is usually present in spaces and activities such as debates, round tables, interviews, get-togethers and other activities in which the floor is given in an organized way in order to listen and give an opinion about the information that each of the participants contributes.

How to write a dialogue?

It is important to bear in mind that, when writing a dialogue, especially if it involves characters, it is the author who must know in depth each of the interlocutors in order to identify the ways in which each one expresses himself, the freedom of speech, the thoughts and feelings that he is able to expose, etc. This will determine the flow of the dialogues by giving voice to each of them.

Let’s see how to write a dialogue:

Know your character very well

As we mentioned, part of starting to write a dialogue implies having a previous knowledge and approach to the character to whom we are going to give the word. So it will be necessary to identify the character’s personality traits, origin, age, educational level and profession, context in which he/she is, among other data that will allow us to give him/her words that a person like this would use in his/her context.

Start writing 

Once you have the above, it is time to start writing. To do this you must take into account the context in which the dialogue will take place, since this will determine, in addition to the personality of the characters, the environment in which it will be presented.

Although you can use lines of dialogue to give your characters a direct voice (-), through which each speaker expresses textually what he or she wants to say, you can also use indirect dialogue, in which the narrator refers to their expressions, adding elements such as “said”, “answered”, “shouted”, “protested”, among others that also appear in direct dialogue.

It allows progress 

A dialogue is not a stagnant process, but, on the contrary, it must bring information to the scene, which allows further development and progress to the story. In them another part of information that is fundamental is exposed, therefore each dialogue must be endowed with key data that manifest ideas, thoughts or emotions that are determinant for the story.

Each dialogue must have a purpose that contributes to the story and reflects something to the reader, so if it does not, it will be better to take another moment to develop the dialogue.

Construct varied dialogue 

Quiet dialogues are fine, in which the story flows little by little, however, the climates should vary as well as it happens within the same story, so you can look at those conversations with strong discussions and confrontations that bring emotion to the reader, as well as those in which feelings emerge, love declarations or other series of situations with a calmer atmosphere.

Review and read aloud

One of the key points to check the verisimilitude of a dialogue is to read it out loud, and it also allows us to review and correct possible flaws that are not heard as we would like.

When you read it out loud you can impersonate the speaker to hear how it sounds and how it is interpreted by the speaker. You can even try reading it with another person to check the course it takes, the environments in which it goes up and generally check if it works or not for that part of the story. Remember that it must be perfectly written, either in case it will be interpreted in the future, or because it will only be read by the reader, as this determines a lot about how it should be interpreted.

Remember to pay close attention to the conversations that take place in your daily life, with people close to you, and take this as a point of reference to start evaluating the way in which they arise, expressions that are usually present. In this way you will add the naturalness that dialogues should express. We do not speak as we write, so dialogue requires deeper attention. Also, do not forget to look at works that integrate this subgenre, such as the one you will see below from the fragment of the play “Romeo and Juliet”.

Example of the dialogue subgenre

Example of the dialogue subgenre

The following dialogue is an excerpt from the play “Romeo and Juliet”, written by Shakespeare, which reflects the use of this subgenre:

JULIETTE.- Where am I? Amp me, ye celestial spirits!

ROMEO: Speak, live! Yes, we can still be happy! My good, propitious star, indemnifies me at present for all my past sufferings. -Arise, arise, arise, my Juliet, let me from this den of death, from this mansion of horror, transport thee without delay to the arms of thy Romeo, who there infuses thy lips with vital breath, and turns my soul to life and love. (He lifts her up.)

JULIETTE: My God, how cold it is! -Who’s there?

ROMEO.- Your husband, your Romeo, Juliet; turned from despair to ineffable joy. Leave, leave this place and let us flee together. (He pulls her out of the tomb.)

JULIETTE: Why do you thus violate me? – I will never consent, my strength may fail me, but my will is invariable. -I will not marry Paris, Romeo is my consort!

ROMEO.- Romeo is thy consort; that Romeo am I. Nor all the contrary power of earth or man Shall break our bond, nor tear thee from my heart.

JULIETTE: I know that voice; its magic sweetness awakens my suspenseful spirit. -Now I remember all the details well. Oh, my master, my husband! (Going to embrace him.)

Flee from me, Romeo? Let me touch thy hand and taste the cordial of thy lips. -You fright me! Speak. -Oh, let me hear another voice than mine in this dreary den of death, or I shall lose my senses. -Hold me.

ROMEO: Oh, I cannot; I am without strength; on the contrary, I need your feeble support. -Cruel poison!

JULIETTE: Poison! What sayest thou, my master? Your stammering voice, your discolored lips, your wandering gaze? -In your face is death!