Writing A Narrative Essay

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  • Books & EBooks
  • What is an Narrative Essay?
  • Choosing a Topic
  • MLA Formatting

Using Dialogue

  • Using Descriptive Writing
  • OER Resources
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how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

Examples of Dialogue Tags

Examples of Dialogue Tags:


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Additional Links & Resources

  • Dialogue Cheat Sheet

Dialogue is an exchange of conversation between two or more people or characters in a story. As a literary style, dialogue helps to advance the plot, reveal a character's thoughts or emotions, or shows the character's reaction within the story. Dialogue gives life to the story and supports the story's atmosphere.

There are two types of dialogue that can be used in an narrative essay.

Direct dialogue  is written between inverted commas or quotes. These are the actual spoken words of a character 

Indirect dialogue  is basically telling someone about what another person said

Formatting Dialogue

Dialogue is an important part of a narrative essay, However formatting dialogue can be troublesome at times.

When formatting dialogue use these rules and examples to help with your formatting:

Place double quotation marks at the beginning an end of spoken words.  The quotations go on the  outside  of both the words and end-of-dialogue punctuation.

  • Example:  "What is going on here?" John asked.

Each speaker gets a new paragraph that is indented.

      “hi,” said John as he stretched out his hand.

           "Good Morning, how are you?" said Brad shaking John’s hand.

                      "Good. Thanks for asking," John said.

Each speaker’s actions are in the same paragraph as their dialogue.


 A  dialogue tag  is anything that indicates which character spoke and describes how they spoke.

If the tag comes before the dialogue,  use a comma straight after the tag. If the dialogue is the beginning of a sentence, capitalize the first letter. End the dialogue with the appropriate punctuation (period, exclamation point, or question mark), but keep it INSIDE the quotation marks.

  • Examples Before: 

James said, “I’ll never go shopping with you again!”

John said, “It's a great day to be at the beach.”

She opened the door and yelled, “Go away! Leave me alone!”

If the dialogue tag comes after the dialogue , Punctuation still goes INSIDE quotation marks. Unless the dialogue tag begins with a proper noun, it is  not  capitalized. End the dialogue tag with appropriate punctuation. Use comma after the quote unless it ends with a question mark or exclamation mark.

  • Examples After: 

“Are you sure this is real life?” Lindsay asked.

“It’s so gloomy out,” he said.

“Are we done?” asked Brad . 

“This is not your concern!” Emma said.

If dialogue tag is in the middle of dialogue.  A comma should be used before the dialogue tag inside the closing quotation mark; Unless the dialogue tag begins with a proper noun, it is  not  capitalized. A comma is used after the dialogue tag, outside of quotation marks, to reintroduce the dialogue. End the dialogue with the appropriate punctuation followed by the closing quotation marks. 

When it is two sentences, the first sentence will end with a punctuation mark and the second begins with a capital letter.

  • Examples middle: 

“Let’s run away,” she whispered, “we wont get another chance.”

“I thought you cared.” Sandy said, hoping for an explanation. “How could you walk away?”

“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Jerry whispered. “I’ll miss him.”

Questions in dialogue.  

if there is a dialogue tag, the question mark will act as a comma and you will then lowercase the first word in the dialogue tag 

  • Example: What are you doing?" he asked.

if there is simply an action after the question, the question mark acts as a period and you will then capitalize the first word in the next sentence.

“Sarah, why didn't you text me back?” Jane asked.

“James, why didn’t you show up?” Carol stomped her feet in anger before slamming the door behind her.

If the question or exclamation ends the dialogue, do not use commas to separate the dialogue from dialogue tags.

  • Example:  “Sarah, why didn't you text me back?” Jane asked.

If the sentence containing the dialogue is a question, then the        question mark goes outside of the quotation marks.

Did the teacher say, “The Homework is due Tomorrow”?

If you have to quote something within the dialogue.  When a character quotes someone else, use double-quotes around what your character says, then single-quotes around the speech they’re quoting.

  • Example: 

"When doling out dessert, my grandmother always said, 'You may have a cookie for each hand.'"

Dashes & Ellipses:

Dashes ( — ) are used to indicate abruptly interrupted dialogue or when one character's dialogue is interrupted by another character.

Use an em dash  inside  the quotation marks to cut off the character mid-dialogue, usually with either (A) another character speaking or (B) an external action.

  • Including the em dash at the end of the line of dialogue signifies that your character wasn't finished speaking.
  • If the speaking character's action interrupts their own dialogue . 
  • Use em dashes  outside  the quotation marks to set off a bit of action without a speech verb. 


  • Heather ran towards Sarah with excitement. “You won’t believe what I found out—”
  • "Is everything—" she started to ask, but a sharp look cut her off.
  • "Look over there—" She snapped her mouth shut so she didn't give the secret away.
  • "Look over there"—she pointed towards the shadow—"by the stairway."

Use ellipses (...) when a character has lost their train of thought or can't figure out what to say

  • Example:  “You haven’t…” he trailed off in disbelief.

Action Beats

Action beats show what a character is doing before, during, or after their dialogue.

“This isn't right.” She squinted down at her burger. “Does this look like it is well done to you?”

She smiled. “I loved the center piece you chose.”

If you separate two complete sentences, you will simply place the action beat as its own sentence between two sets of quotes.

“I never said he could go to the concert.” Linda sighed and sat in her chair. “He lied to you again.”

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Writing Beginner

Writing Dialogue [20 Best Examples + Formatting Guide]

Have you ever found yourself cringing at clunky dialogue while reading a book or watching a movie? I know I have.

It’s like nails on a chalkboard, completely ruining the experience. But on the flip side, well-written dialogue can transform a story. It’s the magic that makes characters leap off the page, immersing us in their world.

As a writer, I’m fascinated by the mechanics of great dialogue.

So here are 20 of the best examples of writing dialogue that brings your story to life.

Example 1: Dialogue that Reveals Character

Writer at a computer working on dialogue

Table of Contents

One of the most powerful functions of dialogue is to shed light on your characters’ personalities.

The way they speak – their word choice, tone, even their hesitations – can tell us so much about who they are. Check out this example:

“Look, I ain’t gonna sugarcoat this,” the detective growled, his knuckles whitening as he gripped the chair. “You were spotted leaving the scene, and the murder weapon’s got your prints all over it.”

Without any lengthy description, we get a sense of this detective as a no-nonsense, direct type of guy.

Example 2: Dialogue that Builds Tension

Dialogue can become this amazing tool to ratchet up the tension in a scene.

Short, clipped exchanges and carefully placed silences can leave the reader on the edge of their seat.

Here’s how it might play out:

“Do you hear that?” Sarah whispered. “Hear what?” A scratching noise echoed from the attic. Sarah’s eyes widened. “It’s coming back.”

The suspense is killing me just writing that!

Example 3: Dialogue that Drives the Plot

Conversations aren’t just about characters sitting around and chatting.

Great dialogue should actively push the story forward. It can set up a conflict, reveal key information, or change the course of events.

Take a look at this:

“I’ve made my decision,” the king declared, the crown heavy on his brow. “We go to war.”

A single line, and the whole trajectory of the story shifts.

Formatting Tips: The Basics

Now, before we get carried away, let’s cover some essential dialogue formatting rules.

Think of these as the grammar of a good conversation.

  • Quotation Marks:  Yep, those little squiggles are your best friend. They signal to the reader: “Hey! Someone’s talking!”
  • New Speaker, New Paragraph:  Whenever a different character starts talking, give them a new paragraph. It’s all about keeping things easy to follow.
  • Dialogue Tags:  These are the little phrases like “he said” or “she replied.” Use them, but try not to overuse them. A well-placed action beat can often do a better job of showing who’s speaking.

Example 4: Dialogue that Creates Humor

Dialogue can be ridiculously funny when done well.

The key? Snappy exchanges, playful misunderstandings, and just a dash of absurdity. Consider this:

“I saw the weirdest thing at the grocery store today,” Tom said, “A woman arguing with a head of lettuce.” “Was she winning?” Lily asked, a grin playing on her lips.

You can almost hear the deadpan delivery, can’t you?

Example 5: Dialogue that Shows Relationships

The way characters speak to each other says a ton about the dynamics between them.

Is there warmth, hostility, an underlying power struggle? Dialogue can paint a crystal-clear picture. Imagine this exchange:

“You didn’t do the dishes again?” Sarah sighed, hands planted on her hips. “Aw, c’mon babe. I was busy,” Mike whined, avoiding her gaze.

We instantly sense the long-suffering tone from Sarah and the playful guilt from Mike.

Example 6: Dialogue with Subtext

The most interesting dialogue often has layers. What the characters say might not be exactly what they mean.

This is where subtext comes in – the unspoken thoughts and feelings bubbling beneath the surface.

Take this snippet:

“It’s a nice ring,” Emily said, her voice flat. “You don’t like it?” Mark’s brow furrowed. Emily shrugged. “It’s fine.”

Is Emily truly indifferent? Or is she masking disappointment, perhaps a sense of something not being quite right? Subtext makes us read between the lines.

Formatting Tips: Getting Fancy

Now, let’s spice things up with a few more advanced formatting tricks:

  • Ellipses (…):  These little dots are perfect for showing a character trailing off, hesitating, or searching for words. Example: “I…I don’t know what to say.”
  • Em Dashes (—):  These guys can interrupt a thought or indicate a sudden change in direction. Example: “I was going to apologize, but then — well, you’re still being a jerk.”
  • Internal Dialogue:  Instead of quotation marks, sometimes you’ll want to italicize a character’s inner thoughts. Example:  Why did I say that? I’m such an idiot.

Cautionary Note

It’s important to remember: dialogue shouldn’t feel like an interrogation. Avoid rigid “question-answer, question-answer” patterns. Real conversations flow and meander naturally.

Example 7: Dialogue with Dialects and Accents

Regional dialects and accents can bring so much flavor to your characters, but it’s a delicate balance.

You want to add authenticity without it becoming a caricature or making it hard to understand.

Here’s a subtle example:

“Well, I’ll be darned,” drawled the farmer, squinting at the sky. “Looks like a storm’s brewin’.”

Notice how just a few word choices and a slight change in pronunciation hint at the speaker’s background.

Example 8: Dialogue in Groups

Writing conversations with more than two people can get chaotic fast. The key is clarity.

Here are a few tips:

  • Strong Dialogue Tags:  Sometimes, you need to be more specific than just “he said” or “she said”. Example: “Don’t be ridiculous,” scoffed Sarah.
  • Action Beats:  Break up chunks of dialogue with actions that show who’s speaking. Example: Tom slammed his fist on the table. “I won’t stand for this!”

Example 9: Dialogue Over the Phone (or Other Technology)

Conversations where characters aren’t physically together pose unique challenges.

You can’t rely on body language cues. Instead, focus on conveying tone and potential misunderstandings.

For instance:

“Hello?” Sarah’s voice crackled through the phone. A long pause. “Sarah, is that you?” “Mom? Why are you whispering?”

Instantly there’s a sense of distance and something not being quite right.

Example 10: Inner Monologue with a Twist

We often think of internal dialogue as a single character reflecting, but sometimes our inner voices can argue.

This can be a powerful way to showcase internal conflict.

Here’s how it might look:

You should just tell him how you feel, one voice chimed. Are you crazy? the other shrieked back. He’ll never feel the same way .

This creates a vivid picture of a character torn between opposing desires.

Example 11: Dialogue With a Manipulative Character

Manipulative characters often use language as a weapon.

They might use guilt trips, flattery, or veiled threats to get what they want.

Consider this:

“After everything I’ve done for you…” The old woman sighed, a flicker of disappointment in her eyes. “Well, I guess I shouldn’t expect gratitude.”

Notice how she doesn’t directly ask for anything, instead hinting at a debt, leaving the listener feeling uneasy and obligated.

Example 12: Dialogue Across Time Periods

If you’re writing historical fiction or anything with time travel elements, you’ll need to capture the distinct speech patterns of different eras.

Imagine this exchange:

“Gadzooks! What manner of contraption is this?” The Victorian gentleman exclaimed, staring in bewilderment at the smartphone. “It’s a phone,” the teenager replied, barely suppressing a laugh. “Let me show you.”

This little snippet highlights the potential for both humor and linguistic challenges when worlds collide.

Formatting Tip: Dialogue Without Tags

Sometimes, for a rapid-fire or dreamlike effect, you might want to ditch the “he said” or “she asked” altogether.

It’s a bold move, but it can be effective if done sparingly.

Check this out:

“Where are you going?” “Away.” “When will you be back?” “I don’t know.” “Please don’t leave me.”

This creates a sense of urgency, the raw exchange forcing us to focus solely on the words themselves.

Example 13: Dialogue that Shows Transformation

A great way to showcase how a character develops is through shifts in how they speak.

Maybe they become bolder, quieter, or their vocabulary changes.

Let’s see an example:

Scene 1: “I-I don’t know,” Emily whimpered, cowering in the corner. Scene 2 (Later in the story): “That’s it. I’m not taking this anymore!” Emily declared, her chin held high.

The dialogue itself reflects her transformation from victim to someone ready to stand up for herself.

Example 14: Dialogue that’s Just Plain Weird

It’s okay to get strange sometimes.

Absurdist humor or unsettling conversations can add a unique flavor to your story. Just be sure it fits the overall tone.

“Do you believe in cucumbers?” the man asked, his eyes wide and unblinking. “Excuse me?” “Cucumbers, my dear. Agents of the underground vegetable kingdom.”

This immediately creates a sense of oddness and perhaps a touch of unease. Is this guy crazy, or is there something more going on?

Example 15: Dialogue with a Purpose

Remember, good dialogue isn’t just about being entertaining.

It should move your story along. Here are some functions dialogue can serve:

  • Providing Exposition:  Sometimes, you need to inform the reader of backstory or world-building details. Trickle information through natural conversation rather than an information dump.
  • Foreshadowing:  Subtle hints within a conversation can foreshadow future events or create a sense of unease for the reader.
  • Revealing a Twist:  A single line of dialogue can completely flip the script and reframe everything that came before.

Example 16: Dialogue with Non-Verbal Elements

So much of communication happens beyond just words.

Sighs, laughs, and gestures can add richness to dialogue on the page.

“I’m fine,” she said, crossing her arms and looking away.

Notice how the body language contradicts her words, hinting at inner turmoil.

Example 17: Silence as Dialogue

Sometimes, what isn’t said is the most powerful thing of all.

A pregnant pause or a character refusing to speak can convey volumes.

Imagine this:

“So, will you help me or not?” Tom pleaded. Sarah stared at him, her lips a thin line. Finally, she turned and walked away.

The lack of a verbal response speaks louder than any words could.

Example 18: Dialogue With Humorous Effect

A well-timed O.S. voice can deliver a funny remark or punchline, undercutting the seriousness of a scene or taking a moment in an unexpected comedic direction.

INT. CLASSROOM – DAY The teacher drones on about the causes of the American Revolution, his voice as dull as the worn textbook in front of him. KEVIN tries to stifle his yawns, failing miserably. STUDENT (O.S.) Is he ever going to stop talking? My brain just turned to mush. Snickers ripple through the class. The teacher pauses, a look of annoyance flickering across his face. Kevin shoots a desperate look towards the source of the O.S. voice.
  • Timing is everything. The best comedic O.S. lines act as a witty reaction to something else happening in a scene. The student’s comment comes right as Kevin’s boredom peaks.
  • Subverting expectations is funny. The audience expects the scene to continue with a stern reprimand for speaking out of turn, but the script doesn’t give us that. This leaves room for further humor.
  • Consider the tone of the voice – sarcastic, matter-of-fact, or outright whiny? This adds to the comedic effect.

Example 19: Dialogue With Unexpected Reveals

Think of this as a surprise twist using O.S. dialogue.

The audience (and maybe even some characters) are led to believe one thing, only for an O.S. voice to reveal something completely unexpected, shifting the scene’s dynamic.

INT. POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM – NIGHTDETECTIVE HARRIS paces in front of a nervous SUSPECT. Photos of the crime scene are scattered on the table. HARRIS Don’t lie to me! We’ve got witnesses who saw you at the scene. SUSPECT I – I swear, I had nothing to do with it! I was… I was with my girlfriend. Harris leans in, a triumphant glint in her eyes. She claps her hands sharply, startling the suspect. WOMAN (O.S.) That’s a lie! He was nowhere near me last night! The suspect whips around. His face pales as we hear the sound of the interrogation room door swinging open…
  • The power lies in the build-up. The initial dialogue and the characters’ reactions should lead the audience to believe one outcome, making the O.S. interruption all the more impactful.
  • Consider who speaks the O.S. line. Is it someone the audience recognizes, or a totally new character whose identity becomes a new mystery?
  • Play with the proximity of the voice. Is it right outside the room, adding to the dramatic reveal as the door opens, or is it more distant – perhaps a voice over an intercom – for an even more unsettling effect?

Example 20: Dialogue With a “Haunted” Feeling

Explanation: O.S. can be used to create an eerie or unsettling atmosphere, particularly in horror or psychological thrillers. This could be unexplained voices, creepy whispers, or sounds that hint at a supernatural (or simply unnerving) presence.

INT. OLD MANSION – NIGHTSARAH explores the abandoned mansion, flashlight cutting through the thick dust. Cobwebs cling to every surface. A faint WHISPER drifts through the air, seeming to come from everywhere at once. Sarah freezes. VOICE (O.S.) Get out… leave this place… Sarah’s breath catches in her throat. She hesitantly follows the direction of the voice, her flashlight beam trembling.
  • Less is more. The vaguer and more inexplicable the O.S. voice, the more chilling it becomes.
  • Layer sounds for a full creepy effect. Combine whispers with unexpected bangs, creaks, or the faint sound of footsteps following behind Sarah.
  • Play with audience expectations. If the script initially leads the audience to think the house is merely abandoned, the O.S. voices become that much more terrifying.

Here is a good video about writing dialogue:

Additional Dialogue Tips & Tricks

  • Read Your Dialogue Aloud:  This is the best way to catch awkward phrasing or unnatural rhythms. Our ears often pick up on what our eyes might miss.
  • Less is More:  Don’t feel the need to have every single interaction be profound. Sometimes a simple “Hey” or “Thanks” can do the job just fine.
  • Eavesdrop:  Paying attention to real-life conversations is fantastic research. Note the pauses, the filler words, the way people interrupt each other.

Final Thoughts: Writing Dialogue

Phew! We did it!

Does that feel like a solid collection of dialogue examples? We haven’t covered absolutely every scenario, but I hope these illustrate the vast potential within dialogue to bring your stories to life.

Read This Next:

  • How To Use Action Tags in Dialogue: Ultimate Guide
  • How Do Writers Fill a Natural Pause in Dialogue? [7 Crazy Effective Ways]
  • Can You Start a Novel with Dialogue?
  • How To Write A Southern Accent (17 Tips + Examples)
  • How to Write a French Accent (13 Best Tips with Examples)

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How to Write Dialogue: Rules, Examples, and 8 Tips for Engaging Dialogue

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

by Fija Callaghan

You’ll often hear fiction writers talking about “character-driven stories”—stories where the strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations of the central cast of characters stay with us long after the book is closed. But what drives character, and how do we create characters that leave long-lasting impressions?

The answer lies in dialogue : the device used by our characters to communicate with each other. Powerful dialogue can elevate a story and subtly reveal important information, but poorly written dialogue can send your work straight to the slush bin. Let’s look at what dialogue is in writing, how to properly format dialogue, and how to make your characters’ dialogue the best it can be.

What is dialogue in a story?

Dialogue is the verbal exchange between two or more characters. In most fiction, the exchange is in the form of a spoken conversation. However, conversations in a story can also be things like letters, text messages, telepathy, or even sign language. Any moment where two characters speak or connect with each other through their choice of words, they’re engaging in dialogue.

Dialogue is the verbal exchange between two or more characters.

Why does dialogue matter in a story?

We use dialogue in a story to reveal new information about the plot, characters, and story world. Great dialogue is essential to character development and helps move the plot forward in a story.

Writing good dialogue is a great way to sneak exposition into your story without stating it overtly to the reader; you can also use tools like dialect and diction in your dialogue to communicate more detail about your characters.

Dialogue helps to create characters that leave long-lasting impressions.

Through a character’s dialogue, we can learn about their motivations, relationships, and understanding of the world around them.

A character won’t always say what they mean (more on dialogue subtext below), but everything they say will serve some larger purpose in the story. If your dialogue is well-written, the reader will absorb this information without even realizing it. If your dialogue is clunky, however, it will stand out and pull your reader away from your story.

Three reasons why dialogue matters in a story.

Rules for writing dialogue

Before we get into how to make your dialogue realistic and engaging, let’s make sure you’ve got the basics down: how to properly format dialogue in a story. We’ll look at how to punctuate dialogue, how to write dialogue correctly when using a question mark or exclamation point, and some helpful dialogue writing examples.

Here are the need-to-know rules for formatting dialogue in writing.

Enclose lines of dialogue in double quotation marks

This is the most essential rule in basic dialogue punctuation. When you write dialogue in North American English, a spoken line will have a set of double quotation marks around it. Here’s a simple dialogue example:

“Were you at the party last night?”

Any punctuation such as periods, question marks, and exclamation marks will also go inside the quotation marks. The quotation marks give a visual clue to the reader that this line is spoken out loud.

Quotation marks give a visual clue to the reader.

In European or British English, however, you’ll often see single quotation marks being used instead of double quotation marks. All the other rules stay the same.

Enclose nested dialogue in single quotation marks

Nested dialogue is when one line of dialogue happens inside another line of dialogue—when someone is verbally quoting someone else. In North American English, you’d use single quotation marks to identify where the new dialogue line starts and stops, like this:

“And then, do you know what he said to me? Right to my face, he said, ‘I stayed home all night.’ As if I didn’t even see him.”

The double and single quotation marks give the reader clues as to who’s speaking. In European or British English, the quotation marks would be reversed; you’d use single quotation marks on the outside, and double quotation marks on the inside.

Every speaker gets a new paragraph

Every time you switch to a new speaker, you end the line where it is and start a new line. Here are some dialogue examples to show you how it looks:

“Were you at the party last night?” “No, I stayed home all night.”

The same is true if the new “speaker” is only in focus because of their action. You can think of the paragraphs like camera angles, each one focusing on a different person:

“Were you at the party last night?” “No, I stayed home all night.” She raised a single, threatening eyebrow. “Yeah, I wasn’t feeling that well, so I just stayed in and watched Netflix instead.”

If you kept the action on the same line as the dialogue, it would get confusing and make it look like she was the one saying it. Giving each character a new paragraph keeps the speakers clear and distinct.

Use em-dashes when dialogue gets cut short

If your character begins to speak but is interrupted, you’ll break off their line of dialogue with an em-dash, like this:

“Yeah, I wasn’t feeling that well, so I just stayed in and—” “Is that really what happened?”

Be careful with this one, because many word processors will treat your em-dash like the beginning of a new sentence and attach your closing quotation marks backwards:

“Yeah, I wasn’t feeling that well, so I just stayed in and—“

You may need to keep an eye out and adjust as you go along.

In this dialogue example, the new speaker doesn’t lead with an em-dash; they just start speaking like normal. The only time you’ll ever open a line of dialogue with an em-dash is if the speaker who’s been cut off continues with what they were saying:

“Yeah, I wasn’t feeling that well, so I just stayed in and—” “Is that really what happened?” “—watched Netflix instead. Yes, that’s what happened.”

This shows the reader that there’s actually only one line of dialogue, but it’s been cut in the middle by another speaker.

Each line of dialogue is indented

Every time you give your speaker a new paragraph, it’s indented from the left-hand side. Many word processors will do this automatically. The only exception is if your dialogue is opening your story or a new section of your story, such as a chapter; these will always start at the far left margin of the page, whether they’re dialogue or narration.

Each time you change speakers, begin dialogue on a new line.

Long speeches don’t use use closing quotation marks until the end

Most writers favor shorter lines of dialogue in their writing, but sometimes you might need to give your character a longer one—for instance, if the character speaking is giving a speech or telling a story. In these cases, you might choose to break up their speech into shorter paragraphs the way you would if you were writing regular narrative.

However, here the punctuation gets a bit weird. You’ll begin the character’s dialogue with a double quotation mark, like normal. But you won’t use a double quotation mark at the end of the paragraph, because they haven’t finished speaking yet. But! You’ll use another opening quotation mark at the beginning of the subsequent paragraph. This means that you may use several opening double quotation marks for your character’s speech, but only ever one closing quotation mark.

If your character is telling a story that involves people talking, remember to use single quotation marks for your dialogue-within-dialogue as we looked at above.

Sometimes these dialogue formatting rules are easier to catch later on, during the editing process. When you’re writing, worry less about using the exact dialogue punctuation and more about writing great dialogue that supports your character development and moves the story forward.

How to use dialogue tags

Dialogue tags help identify the speaker. They’re especially important if you have a group of people all talking together, and it can get pretty confusing for the reader trying to keep everybody straight. If you’re using a speech tag after your line of dialogue—he said, she said, and so forth—you’ll end your sentence with a comma, like this:

“No, I stayed home all night,” he said.

But if you’re using an action to identify the person speaking instead, you’ll punctuate the sentence like normal and start a new sentence to describe the action taking place:

“No, I stayed home all night.” He looked down at his feet.

The dialogue tags and action tags always follow in the same paragraph. When you move your story lens to a new person, you’ll switch to a new paragraph. Each line where a new person speaks propels the story forward.

When to use capitals in dialogue tags

You may have noticed in the two examples above that one dialogue tag begins with a lowercase letter, and one—which is technically called an action tag—begins with a capital letter. Confusing? The rules are simple once you get a little practice.

When you use a dialogue tag like “he said,” “she said,” “he whispered,” or “she shouted,” you’re using these as modifiers to your sentence—dressing it up with a little clarity. They’re an extension of the sentence the person was speaking. That’s why you separate them with a comma and keep going.

With an action tag , you’re ending one sentence and beginning a whole new one. Each sentence represents two distinct moments in the story. That’s why you end the first sentence with a period, and then open the next one with a capital letter.

If you’re not sure, try reading them out loud:

“No, I stayed home all night,” he said. “No, I stayed home all night.” He looked down at his feet.

Dialogue tags vs. action tags.

Since you can’t hear quotation marks out loud, the way you say them will show you if they’re one sentence or two. In the first example, you can hear how the sentence keeps going after the dialogue ends. In the second example, you can hear how one sentence comes to a full stop and another one begins.

But what if your dialogue tag comes before the dialogue, instead of after? In this case, the dialogue is always capitalized because the speaker is beginning a new sentence:

He said, “No, I stayed home all night.” He looked down at his feet. “No, I stayed home all night.”

You’ll still use a comma after the dialogue tag and a period after the action tag, just like if you’d separate them if you were putting your tag at the end.

If you’re not sure, ask yourself if your leading tag sounds like a full sentence or a partial sentence. If it sounds like a partial sentence, it gets a comma. If it reads like a full sentence that stands on its own, it gets a period.

External vs. internal dialogue

All of the dialogue we’ve looked at so far is external dialogue, which is directed from one character to another. The other type of dialogue is internal dialogue, or inner dialogue, where a character is talking to themselves. You’ll use this when you want to show what a character is thinking, but other characters can’t hear.

Usually, internal dialogue will be written in italics to distinguish it from the rest of the text. That shows the reader that the line is happening inside the character’s head. For example:

It’s not a big deal, she thought. It’s just a new school. It’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.

Here you can see that the dialogue tag is used in the same way, just as if it was a line of external dialogue. However, “she thought” is written in regular text because it’s not a part of what the character is thinking. This helps keep everything clear for the reader.

External dialogue vs. internal dialogue.

In your story, you can play with using contrasting internal and external dialogue to show that what your characters say isn’t always what they mean. You may also choose to use this internal dialogue formatting if you’re writing dialogue between two or more characters that isn’t spoken out loud—for instance, telepathically or by sign language.

8 tips for creating engaging dialogue in a story

Now that you’ve mastered the mechanics of how to write dialogue, let’s look at how to create convincing, compelling dialogue that will elevate your story.

1. Listen to people talk

To write convincingly about people, you’ll first need to know something about them. The work of great writers is often characterized by their insight into humanity; you read them and think, “Yes, this is exactly what people are like.” You can begin accumulating your own insight by listening to what real people say to each other.

You can go to any public place where people are likely to gather and converse: cafés, art galleries, political events, dimly lit pubs, bookshops. Record snippets of conversation, pay attention to how people’s voices change as they move from speaking to one person to another, try to imagine what it is they’re not saying, the words simmering just under the surface.

By listening to stories unfold in real time, you’ll have a better idea of how to recreate them in your writing—and inspiration for some new stories, too.

2. Give each spoken line a purpose

Here is something that actors have drilled into their heads from their first day at drama school, and writers would do well to remember it too: every single line of dialogue has a hidden motivation. Every time your character speaks, they’re trying to achieve something, either overtly or covertly.

Small talk is rare in fiction, because it doesn’t advance the plot or reveal something about your characters. The exception is when your characters are using their small talk for a specific purpose, such as to put off talking about the real issue, to disarm someone, or to pretend they belong somewhere they don’t.

When writing your own dialogue, ask yourself what the line accomplishes in the story. If you come up blank, it probably doesn’t need to be there. Words need to earn their place on the page.

Eight tips for creating engaging dialogue.

3. Embrace subtext

In real life, we rarely say exactly what we really mean. The reality of polite society is that we’ve evolved to speak in circles around our true intentions, afraid of the consequences of speaking our mind. Your characters will be no different. If your protagonist is trying to tell their best friend they’re in love with them, for instance, they’ll come up with about fifty different ways to say it before speaking the deceptively simple words themselves.

To write better dialogue, try exploring different ways of moving your characters around what’s really being said, layering text and subtext side by side. The reader will love picking apart the conversation between your characters and deducing what’s really happening underneath (incidentally, this is also the place where fan fiction is born).

4. Keep names to a minimum

You may notice that on television, in moments of great upheaval, the characters will communicate exactly how important the moment is by saying each other’s names in dramatic bursts of anger/passion/fear/heartbreak/shock. In real life, we say each other’s names very rarely; saying someone’s name out loud can actually be a surprisingly intimate experience.

Names may be a necessary evil right at the beginning of your story so your reader knows who’s who, but after you’ve established your cast, try to include names in dialogue only when it makes sense to do so. If you’re not sure, try reading the dialogue out loud to see if it sounds like something someone would actually say (we’ll talk more about reading out loud below).

5. Prune unnecessary words

This is one area where reality and story differ. In life, dialogue is full of filler words: “Um, uh, well, so yeah, then I was like, erm, huh?” You may have noticed this when you practiced listening to dialogue, above. We won’t say there’s never a place for these words in fiction, but like all words in storytelling, they need to earn their place. You might find filler words an effective tool for showing something about one particular character, or about one particular moment, but you’ll generally find that you use them a lot less than people really do in everyday speech.

When you’re reviewing your characters’ dialogue, remember the hint above: each line needs a purpose. It’s the same for each word. Keep only the ones that contribute something to the story.

6. Vary word choices and rhythms

The greatest dialogue examples in writing use distinctive character voices; each character sounds a little bit different, because they have their own personality.

This can be tricky to master, but an easy way to get started is to look at the word choice and rhythm for each character. You might have one character use longer words and run-on sentences, while another uses smaller words and simple, single-clause sentences. You might have one lean on colloquial regional dialect, where another sounds more cosmopolitan. Play around with different ways to develop characters and give each one their own voice.

Effective dialogue is the key to a good story.

7. Be consistent for each character

When you do find a solid, believable voice for your character, make sure that it stays consistent throughout your entire story. It’s easy to set a story aside for a while, then return to it and forget some of the work you did in distinguishing your characters’ dialogue. You might find it helpful to write down some notes about the way each character speaks so you can refer back to it later.

The exception, of course, is if your character’s speech pattern goes through a transformation over the course of the story, like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady . In this case, you can use your character’s distinctive voice to communicate a major change. But as with all things in writing, make sure that it comes from intention and not from forgetfulness.

8. Read your dialogue out loud

After you’ve written a scene between two or more characters, you can take the dialogue for a trial run by speaking it out loud. Ask yourself, does the dialogue sound realistic? Are there any moments where it drags or feels forced? Does the voice feel natural for each character? You’ll often find there are snags you miss in your writing that only become apparent when read out loud. Bonus: this is great practice for when you become rich and famous and do live readings at bookshops.

3 mistakes to avoid when writing dialogue

Easy, right? But there are also a few pitfalls that new writers often encounter when writing dialogue that can drag down an otherwise compelling story. Here are the things to watch out for when crafting your story dialogue.

1. Too much exposition

Exposition is one of the more demanding literary devices , and one of the ones most likely to trip up new writers. Dialogue is a good place to sneak in some information about your story—but subtlety is essential. This is one place where the adage “show, don’t tell” really shines.

Consider these dialogue examples:

“How is she, Doctor?” “Well Mr. Stuffington, I don’t have to remind you that your daughter, the sole heiress to your estate and currently engaged to the Baron of Flippingshire, has suffered a grievous injury when she fell from her horse last Sunday. We don’t need to discuss right now whether or not you think her jealous maid was responsible; what matters is your daughter’s well being. As to your question, I’m afraid it’s very unlikely that she’ll ever walk again.” Can’t you just feel your arm aching to throw the poor book across the room? There’s a lot of important information here, but you can find subtler ways to work it into your story. Let’s try again: “How is she, Doctor?” “Well Mr. Stuffington, your daughter took quite a blow from that horse—worse than we initially thought. I’m afraid it’s very unlikely that she’ll ever walk again.” “And what am I supposed to say to Flippingshire?” “The Baron? I suppose you’ll have to tell him that his future wife has lost the use of her legs.”

And so forth. To create good dialogue exposition, look for little ways to work in the details of your story, instead of piling it up in one great clump.

Three mistakes to avoid when writing dialogue.

2. Too much small talk

We looked at how each line of dialogue needs a specific purpose above. Very often small talk in a story happens because the writer doesn’t know what the scene is about. Small talk doesn’t move the scene along unless it’s there for a reason. If you’re not sure, ask yourself what each character wants in this moment.

For example, imagine you’re in an office, and two characters are talking by the water cooler. How was your weekend, what did you think of the game, how’s your wife doing, are those new shoes, etc etc. Can’t you just feel the reader’s will to live slipping away?

But what about this: your characters are talking by the water cooler—Character A and Character B. Character A knows that his friend is inside Character B’s office looking for evidence of corporate espionage, so A is doing everything he can to stop B from going in. How was your weekend, what did you think of the game, how’s your wife doing, are those new shoes, literally anything just to keep him talking. Suddenly these benign little phrases have a purpose.

If you find your characters slipping into small talk, double check that it’s there for a purpose, and not just a crutch to keep you from moving forward in your scene. When writing dialogue, Make each line of dialogue earn its place.

3. Too much repetition

Variation is the spice of a good story. To keep your readers engaged, avoid using the same sentence structure and the same dialogue tags over and over again. Using “he said” and “she said” is effective and clear cut, but only for about three beats. After that, try switching to an action tag instead or letting the line of dialogue stand on its own.

Powerful dialogue elevates a story.

You can also experiment with varying the length of your sentences or groupings of sentences. By changing up the rhythm of your story regularly, you’ll keep it feeling fresh and present for the reader.

Effective dialogue examples from literature

With all of these tips and tricks in mind, let’s look at how other writers have used good dialogue to elevate their stories.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine , by Gail Honeyman

“I’m going to pick up a carryout and head round to my mate Andy’s. A few of us usually hang out there on Saturday nights, fire up the playstation, have a smoke and a few beers.” “Sounds utterly delightful,” I said. “What about you?” he asked. I was going home, of course, to watch a television program or read a book. What else would I be doing? “I shall return to my flat,” I said. “I think there might be a documentary about komodo dragons on BBC4 later this evening.”

In this dialogue example, the author gives her characters two very distinctive voices. From just a few words we can begin to see these people very clearly in our minds—and with this distinction comes the tension that drives the story. Dialogue is an excellent place to show your character dynamics using speech patterns and word choices.

Pride and Prejudice , by Jane Austen

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?” Mr. Bennet replied that he had not. “But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.” Mr. Bennet made no answer. “Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently. “You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.” This was invitation enough. “Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

In this famous dialogue example, the author illustrates the relationship between these two characters clearly and succinctly. Their dialogue shows Mr. B’s stalwart, tolerant love for his wife and Mrs. B’s excitement and propensity for gossip. The author shows us everything we need to know about these people in just a few lines.

Dinner in Donnybrook , by Maeve Binchy

“Look, I thought you ought to know, we’ve had a very odd letter from Carmel.” “A what… from Carmel?” “A letter. Yes, I know it’s sort of out of character, I thought maybe something might be wrong and you’d need to know…” “Yes, well, what did she say, what’s the matter with her?” “Nothing, that’s the problem, she’s inviting us to dinner.” “To dinner?” “Yes, it’s sort of funny, isn’t it? As if she wasn’t well or something. I thought you should know in case she got in touch with you.” “Did you really drag me all the way down here, third years are at the top of the house you know, I thought the house had burned down! God, wait till I come home to you. I’ll murder you.” “The dinner’s in a month’s time, and she says she’s invited Ruth O’Donnell.” “Oh, Jesus Christ.”

This dialogue example is a telephone conversation between two people. The lack of dialogue tags or action tags allows the words to come to the forefront and immerses us in their back-and-forth conversation. Even though there are no tags to indicate the speakers, the language is simple and straightforward enough that the reader always knows who’s talking. Through this conversation the author slowly builds the tension from the benign to the catastrophic within a domestic setting.

Compelling dialogue is the key to a good story

A writer has a lot riding on their characters’ dialogue, and learning how to write dialogue is a critical skill for any writer. When done well, it can leaves a lasting impact on the reader. But when dialogue is clumsy and awkward, it can drag your story down and make your reader feel like they’re wasting their time.

But if you keep these tips in mind, listen to dialogue in your everyday life, and practice , you’ll be sure to create realistic dialogue that brings your story to life.

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Writing verbal conversations or dialogue is often one of the trickiest parts of creative writing. Crafting effective dialogue within the context of a narrative requires much more than following one quote with another. With practice, though, you can learn how to write natural-sounding dialogue that is creative and compelling.

The Purpose of Dialogue

Put simply, dialogue is narrative conveyed through speech by two or more characters. Effective dialogue should do many things at once, not just convey information. It should set the scene, advance action, give insight into each character, and foreshadow future dramatic action.

Dialogue doesn't have to be grammatically correct; it should read like actual speech. However, there must be a balance between realistic speech and readability. Dialogue is also a tool for character development. Word choice tells a reader a lot about a person: their appearance, ethnicity, sexuality, background, even morality. It can also tell the reader how the writer feels about a certain character.

How to Write Direct Dialogue

Speech, also known as direct dialogue, can be an effective means of conveying information quickly. But most real-life conversations are not that interesting to read. An exchange between two friends may go something like this:

"Hi, Tony," said Katy.
"Hey," Tony answered.
"What's wrong?" Katy asked.
"Nothing," Tony said.
"Really? You're not acting like nothing's wrong."

Pretty tiresome dialogue, right? By including nonverbal details in your dialogue, you can articulate emotion through action. This adds dramatic tension and is more engaging to read. Consider this revision:

"Hi, Tony."
Tony looked down at his shoe, dug in his toe and pushed around a pile of dust.
"Hey," he replied.
Katy could tell something was wrong.

Sometimes saying nothing or saying the opposite of what we know a character feels is the best way to create dramatic tension. If a character wants to say "I love you," but his actions or words say "I don't care," the reader will cringe at the missed opportunity.

How to Write Indirect Dialogue

Indirect dialogue doesn't rely on speech. Instead, it uses thoughts, memories, or recollections of past conversations to reveal important narrative details. Often, a writer will combine direct and indirect dialogue to increase dramatic tension, as in this example:

Katy braced herself. Something was wrong.

Formatting and Style

To write dialogue that is effective, you must also pay attention to formatting and style. Correct use of tags, punctuation , and paragraphs can be as important as the words themselves.

Remember that punctuation goes inside quotations. This keeps the dialogue clear and separate from the rest of the narrative. For example: "I can't believe you just did that!"

Start a new paragraph each time the speaker changes. If there is action involved with a speaking character, keep the description of the action within the same paragraph as the character's dialogue.

Dialogue tags other than "said" are best used sparingly, if at all. Often a writer uses them to try to convey a certain emotion. For example:

"But I don't want to go to sleep yet," he whined.

Instead of telling the reader that the boy whined, a good writer will describe the scene in a way that conjures the image of a whining little boy:

He stood in the doorway with his hands balled into little fists at his sides. His red, tear-rimmed eyes glared up at his mother. "But I don't want to go to sleep yet."

Practice Makes Perfect

Writing dialogue is like any other skill. It requires constant practice if you want to improve as a writer. Here are a few tips to help you prepare to write effective dialogue.

  • Start a dialogue diary. Practice speech patterns and vocabulary that may be foreign to you. This will give you the opportunity to really get to know your characters.
  • Listen and take notes. Carry a small notebook with you and write down phrases, words, or whole conversations verbatim to help develop your ear.
  • Read. Reading will hone your creative abilities. It will help familiarize you with the form and flow of narration and dialogue until it becomes more natural in your own writing.
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  • Definition and Examples of Narratives in Writing
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  • How to Write a Narrative Essay or Speech
  • Constructed Dialogue in Storytelling and Conversation
  • Writing the Parts of a Stage Play Script
  • What Are the Parts of a Short Story? (How to Write Them)
  • Reported Speech
  • Foreshadowing in Narratives
  • Ellipsis: Definition and Examples in Grammar
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Last updated on Sep 21, 2023

How to Write Fabulous Dialogue [9 Tips + Examples]

This post is written by author, editor, and bestselling ghostwriter Tom Bromley. He is the  instructor of Reedsy's 101-day course,  How to Write a Novel .

Good dialogue isn’t about quippy lines and dramatic pauses.

Good dialogue is about propelling the story forward, pulling the reader along, and fleshing out characters and their dynamics in front of readers. Well-written dialogue can take your story to a new level — you just have to unlock it.

In this article, I’ll break down the major steps of writing great dialogue, and provide exercises for you to practice your own dialogue on.

Here's how to write great dialogue in 9 steps:

1. Use quotation marks to signal speech

2. pace dialogue lines by three , 3. use action beats , 4. use ‘said’ as a dialogue tag  , 5. write scene-based dialogue, 6. model any talk on real life , 7. differentiate character voices, 8. "show, don't tell" information in conversation , 9. delete superfluous words, which dialogue tag are you.

Find out in just a minute.

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Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Drama is life with all the boring bits cut out.”

Similarly, I could say that good dialogue in a novel is a real conversation without all the fluff — and with quotation marks. 

Imagine, for instance, if every scene with dialogue in your novel started out with:

'Hey, buddy! How are you doing?"

“Great! How are you?""

'Great! Long time no see! Parking was a nightmare, wasn’t it?"

Firstly, from a technical perspective, the quotation marks are inconsistent and incorrectly formatted. To learn about the mechanics of your dialogue and how to format it, we also wrote this full post on the topic that I recommend reading.

Secondly, from a novel perspective, such lines don’t add anything to the story. And finally, from a reading perspective, your readers will not want to sit through this over and over again. Readers are smart: they can infer that all these civilities occur. Which means that you can skip the small talk (unless it’s important to the story) to get to the heart of the dialogue from the get-go.  

For a more tangible example of this technique, check out the dialogue-driven opening to Barbara Kingsolver's novel, Unsheltered .

Screenwriter Cynthia Whitcomb once proposed an idea called the “Three-Beat Rule.” What this recommends, essentially, is to introduce a maximum of three dialogue “beats” (the short phrases in speech you can say without pausing for breath) at a time. Only after these three dialogue beats should you insert a dialogue tag, action beat, or another character’s speech.

Here’s an example from Jane Gardam’s short story, “Dangers”, in which the boy Jake is shooting an imaginary gun at his grandmother:

How to Write Dialogue | Example from Dangers by Jane Gardam

In theory, this sounds simple enough. In practice, however, it’s a bit more complicated than that, simply because dialogue conventions continue to change over time. There’s no way to condense “good dialogue” into a formula of three this, or two that. But if you’re just starting out and need a strict rule to help you along, then the Three-Beat Rule is a good place to begin experimenting.



How to Write Believable Dialogue

Master the art of dialogue in 10 five-minute lessons.

Let’s take a look at another kind of “beats” now — action beats.

Action beats are the descriptions of the expressions, movements, or even internal thoughts that accompany the speaker’s words. They’re always included in the same paragraph as the dialogue, so as to indicate that the person acting is also the person speaking.

On a technical level, action beats keep your writing varied, manage the pace of a dialogue-heavy scene, and break up the long list of lines ending in ‘he said’ or ‘she said’.

But on a character level, action beats are even more important because they can go a level deeper than dialogue and illustrate a character’s body language.

When we communicate, dialogue only forms a half of how we get across what we want to say. Body language is that missing half — which is why action beats are so important in visualizing a conversation, and can help you “show” rather than “tell” in writing.

Here’s a quick exercise to practice thinking about body language in the context of dialogue: imagine a short scene, where you are witnessing a conversation between two people from the opposite side of a restaurant or café. Because it’s noisy and you can’t hear what they are saying, describe the conversation through the use of body language only.

Remember, at the end of the day, action beats and spoken dialogue are partners in crime. These beats are a commonly used technique so you can find plenty of examples —  here’s one from  Never Let Me Go  by Kazuo Ishiguro . 

If there’s one golden rule in writing dialogue, it’s this: ‘said’ is your friend.

Yes, ‘said’ is nothing new. Yes, ‘said’ is used by all other authors out there already. But you know what? There’s a reason why ‘said’ is the king of dialogue tags: it works.

Pro-tip: While we cannot stress enough the importance of "said," sometimes you do need another dialogue tag. Download this free cheatsheet of 270+ other words for said to get yourself covered!



Get our Dialogue Tag Cheatsheet

Upgrade your dialogue with our list of 270 alternatives to “said.”

The thinking goes that ‘said’ is so unpretentious, so unassuming that it focuses readers’ attention on what’s most important on the page: the dialogue itself. As writer Elmore Leonard puts it: 

“Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But ‘said’ is far less intrusive than ‘grumbled,’ ‘gasped,’ ‘cautioned,’ ‘lied.’”

It might be tempting at times to turn towards other words for ‘said’ such as ‘exclaimed,’ or ‘declared,’ but my general rule of thumb is that in 90% of scenarios, ‘said’ is going to be the most effective dialogue tag for you to use while writing dialogue.

So now that we have several guidelines in place, this is a good spot to pause, reflect, and say that there’s no wrong or right way to write dialogue. It depends on the demands of the scene, the characters, and the story. Great dialogue isn’t about following this or that rule — but rather learning what technique to use when . 

If you stick to one rule the whole time — i.e. if you only use ‘said,’ or you finish every dialogue line with an action beat — you’ll wear out readers. Let’s see how unnaturally it plays out in the example below with Sophie and Ethan: 

How to Write Dialogue | Example of Repetitive Dialogue Tags

All of which is to say: don’t be afraid to make exceptions to the rule if the scene asks for it. The key is to know when to switch up your dialogue structure or use of dialogue tags or action beats throughout a scene — and by extension, throughout your book.

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Dialogue isn’t always about writing grammatically perfect prose. The way a person speaks reflects the way a person is — and not all people are straight-A honor students who speak in impeccable English. In real life, the way people talk is fragmented, and punctuated by pauses.

That’s something that you should also keep in mind when you’re aiming to write authentic dialogue.

It can be tempting to think to yourself, “ Oh, I’ll try and slip in some exposition into my dialogue here to reveal important background information.” But if that results in an info-dump such as this — “ I’m just going to the well, Mother — the well that my brother, your son, tragically fell down five years ago ” — then you’ll probably want to take a step back and find a more organic, timely, and digestible way to incorporate that into your story.

How to Write Dialogue | Example from The Godfather

Kay Adams is Michael’s date at his sister’s wedding in this scene. Her interest in his family is natural enough that the expository conversation doesn’t feel shoehorned in. 

A distinctive voice for each character is perhaps the most important element to get right in dialogue. Just as no one person in the world talks the same as each other, no one person in your book should also talk similarly.

To get this part of writing dialogue down pat, you need to start out by knowing your characters inside out. How does your character talk? Do they come with verbal quirks? Non-verbal quirks?

Jay Gatsby’s “old sport,” for example, gives him a distinctive, recognizable voice. It stands out because no one else has something as memorable about their speech. But more than that, it reveals something valuable about Gatsby’s character: he’s trying to impersonates a gentleman in his speech and lifestyle.

Likewise, think carefully about your character’s voice, and use catchphrases and character quirks when they can say something about your character. 

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“Show, don’t tell” is one of the most oft-repeated rules in writing, and a conversation on the page can be a gold mine for “showing.”

_42vsHCjW0M Video Thumb

Authors can use action beats and descriptions to provide clues for readers to read between the lines. Let’s revisit Sophie and Ethan in this example:

How to Write Dialogue | Example of Show, Don't Tell

While Sophie claims she hasn’t been obsessing over this project all night, the actions in between her words indicate there’s nothing on her mind  but  work. The result is that you show , through the action beats vs. the dialogue, Sophie being hardworking—rather than telling it.


Show, Don't Tell

Master the golden rule of writing in 10 five-minute lessons.

As always when it comes to writing a novel: all roads lead back to The Edit, and the dialogue you’ve written is no exception.

So while you’re editing your novel at the end, you may find that a “less is more” mentality will be helpful. Remember to cut out the unnecessary bits of dialogue, so that you can focus on making sure the dialogue you  do  keep matters. Good writing is intentional and purposeful, always striving to keep the story going and readers engaged. The importance lies in quality rather than quantity. 

One point I haven’t addressed yet is repetition. If used well (i.e. with clear intention), repetition is a  literary device  that can help you build motifs in your writing. But when you find yourself repeating information in your dialogue, it might be a good time to revise your work. 

For instance, here’s a scene with Sophie and Ethan later on in the story: 

How to Write Dialogue | Example of Unnecessary Repetition

As I’ve mentioned before, good dialogue shows character — and dialogue itself is a playground where character dynamics play out. If you write and edit your dialogue with this in mind, then your dialogue will be sharper, cleaner, and more organic. 

I know that writing dialogue can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have much experience with it. But that should never keep you from including it in your work! Just remember that the more you practice — especially with the help of these tips — the better you’ll get.

And once you’re confident with the conversational content you can conjure up, follow along to the next part of our guide to see how you can punctuate and format your dialogue flawlessly .

Tom Bromley

As an editor and publisher, Tom has worked on several hundred titles, again including many prize-winners and international bestsellers. 

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How to Write Dialogue: 7 Great Tips for Writers (With Examples)

Hannah Yang headshot

Hannah Yang

How to write dialogue title

Great dialogue serves multiple purposes. It moves your plot forward. It develops your characters and it makes the story more engaging.

It’s not easy to do all these things at once, but when you master the art of writing dialogue, readers won’t be able to put your book down.

In this article, we will teach you the rules for writing dialogue and share our top dialogue tips that will make your story sing.

Dialogue Rules

How to format dialogue, 7 tips for writing dialogue in a story or book, dialogue examples.

Before we look at tips for writing powerful dialogue, let’s start with an overview of basic dialogue rules.

  • Start a new paragraph each time there’s a new speaker. Whenever a new character begins to speak, you should give them their own paragraph. This rule makes it easier for the reader to follow the conversation.
  • Keep all speech between quotation marks . Everything that a character says should go between quotation marks, including the final punctuation marks. For example, periods and commas should always come before the final quotation mark, not after.
  • Don’t use end quotations for paragraphs within long speeches. If a single character speaks for such a long time that you break their speech up into multiple paragraphs, you should omit the quotation marks at the end of each paragraph until they stop talking. The final quotation mark indicates that their speech is over.
  • Use single quotes when a character quotes someone else. Whenever you have a quote within a quote, you should use single quotation marks (e.g. She said, “He had me at ‘hello.’”)
  • Dialogue tags are optional. A dialogue tag is anything that indicates which character is speaking and how, such as “she said,” “he whispered,” or “I shouted.” You can use dialogue tags if you want to give the reader more information about who’s speaking, but you can also choose to omit them if you want the dialogue to flow more naturally. We’ll be discussing more about this rule in our tips below.

The purpose of dialogue

Let’s walk through some examples of how to format dialogue .

The simplest formatting option is to write a line of speech without a dialogue tag. In this case, the entire line of speech goes within the quotation marks, including the period at the end.

  • Example: “I think I need a nap.”

Another common formatting option is to write a single line of speech that ends with a dialogue tag.

Here, you should separate the speech from the dialogue tag with a comma, which should go inside the quotation marks.

  • Example: “I think I need a nap,” Maria said.

How to puntuate dialogue

You can also write a line of speech that starts with a dialogue tag. Again, you separate the dialogue tag with a comma, but this time, the comma goes outside the quotation marks.

  • Example: Maria said, “I think I need a nap.”

As an alternative to a simple dialogue tag, you can write a line of speech accompanied by an action beat. In this case, you should use a period rather than a comma, because the action beat is a full sentence.

  • Example: Maria sat down on the bed. “I think I need a nap.”

Finally, you can choose to include an action beat while the character is talking.

In this case, you would use em-dashes to separate the action from the dialogue, to indicate that the action happens without a pause in the speech.

  • Example: “I think I need”—Maria sat down on the bed—“a nap.”

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can move on to the more nuanced aspects of writing dialogue.

Here are our seven favorite tips for writing strong, powerful dialogue that will keep your readers engaged.

Tip #1: Create Character Voices

Dialogue is a great way to reveal your characters. What your characters say, and how they say it, can tell us so much about what kind of people they are.

Some characters are witty and gregarious. Others are timid and unobtrusive.

Speech patterns vary drastically from person to person.

To make someone stop talking to them, one character might say “I would rather not talk about this right now,” while another might say, “Shut your mouth before I shut it for you.”

When you’re writing dialogue, think about your character’s education level, personality, and interests.

  • What kind of slang do they use?
  • Do they prefer long or short sentences?
  • Do they ask questions or make assertions?

What goes in to character voice

Each character should have their own voice.

Ideally, you want to write dialogue that lets your reader identify the person speaking at any point in your story just by looking at what’s between the quotation marks.

Tip #2: Write Realistic Dialogue

Good dialogue should sound natural. Listen to how people talk in real life and try to replicate it on the page when you write dialogue.

Don’t be afraid to break the rules of grammar, or to use an occasional exclamation point to punctuate dialogue.

It’s okay to use contractions , sentence fragments , and run-on sentences , even if you wouldn’t use them in other parts of the story.

Contractions, sentence fragments, and run-on sentences

This doesn’t mean that realistic dialogue should sound exactly like the way people speak in the real world.

If you’ve ever read a court transcript, you know that real-life speech is riddled with “ums” and “ahs” and repeated words and phrases. A few paragraphs of this might put your readers to sleep.

Compelling dialogue should sound like a real conversation, while still being wittier, smoother, and better worded than real speech.

Tip #3: Simplify Your Dialogue Tags

A dialogue tag is anything that tells the reader which character is talking within that same paragraph, such as “she said” or “I asked.”

When you’re writing dialogue, remember that simple dialogue tags are the most effective .

Often, you can omit dialogue tags after the conversation has started flowing, especially if only two characters are participating.

The reader will be able to keep up with who’s speaking as long as you start a new paragraph each time the speaker changes.

When you do need to use a dialogue tag, a simple “he said” or “she said” will do the trick.

Our brains generally skip over the word “said” when we’re reading, while other dialogue tags are a distraction.

Which dialogue tags to use

A common mistake beginner writers make is to avoid using the word “said.”

Characters in amateur novels tend to mutter, whisper, declare, or chuckle at every line of dialogue. This feels overblown and distracts from the actual story.

Another common mistake is to attach an adverb to the word “said.” Characters in amateur novels rarely just say things—they have to say things loudly, quietly, cheerfully, or angrily.

If you’re writing great dialogue, readers should be able to figure out whether your character is cheerful or angry from what’s within the quotation marks.

The only exception to this rule is if the dialogue tag contradicts the dialogue itself. For example, consider this sentence:

  • “You’ve ruined my life,” she said angrily.

The word “angrily” is redundant here because the words inside the quotation marks already imply that the character is speaking angrily.

In contrast, consider this sentence:

  • “You’ve ruined my life,” she said thoughtfully.

Here, the word “thoughtfully” is well-placed because it contrasts with what we might otherwise assume. It adds an additional nuance to the sentence inside the quotation marks.

Dos and don'ts of dialogue tags

You can use the ProWritingAid dialogue check when you write dialogue to make sure your dialogue tags are pulling their weight and aren’t distracting readers from the main storyline.

Dialogue tags check

Sign up for your free ProWritingAid account to check your dialogue tags today.

Tip #4: Balance Speech with Action

When you’re writing dialogue, you can use action beats —descriptions of body language or physical action—to show what each character is doing throughout the conversation.

Learning how to write action beats is an important component of learning how to write dialogue.

Good dialogue becomes even more interesting when the characters are doing something active at the same time.

You can watch people in real life, or even characters in movies, to see what kinds of body language they have. Some pick at their fingernails. Some pace the room. Some tap their feet on the floor.

Common action beats for dialogue

Including physical action when writing dialogue can have multiple benefits:

  • It changes the pace of your dialogue and makes the rhythm more interesting
  • It prevents “white room syndrome,” which is when a scene feels like it’s happening in a white room because it’s all dialogue and no description
  • It shows the reader who’s speaking without using speaker tags

You can decide how often to include physical descriptions in each scene. All dialogue has an ebb and flow to it, and you can use beats to control the pace of your dialogue scenes.

If you want a lot of tension in your scene, you can use fewer action beats to let the dialogue ping-pong back and forth.

If you want a slower scene, you can write dialogue that includes long, detailed action beats to help the reader relax.

You should start a separate sentence, or even a new paragraph, for each of these longer beats.

Action beats for dialogue tip

Tip #5: Write Conversations with Subtext

Every conversation has subtext , because we rarely say exactly what we mean. The best dialogue should include both what is said and what is not said.

I once had a roommate who cared a lot about the tidiness of our apartment, but would never say it outright. We soon figured out that whenever she said something like “I might bring some friends over tonight,” what she meant was “Please wash your dishes, because there are no clean plates left for my friends to use.”

Tip for dialogue subtext

When you’re writing dialogue, it’s important to think about what’s not being said. Even pleasant conversations can hide a lot beneath the surface.

Is one character secretly mad at the other?

Is one secretly in love with the other?

Is one thinking about tomorrow’s math test and only pretending to pay attention to what the other person is saying?

Personally, I find it really hard to use subtext when I write dialogue from scratch.

In my first drafts I let my characters say what they really mean. Then, when I’m editing, I go back and figure out how to convey the same information through subtext instead.

Tip #6: Show, Don’t Tell

When I was in high school, I once wrote a story in which the protagonist’s mother tells her: “As you know, Susan, your dad left us when you were five.”

I’ve learned a lot about the writing craft since high school, but it doesn’t take a brilliant writer to figure out that this is not something any mother would say to her daughter in real life.

Characters sould talk to each other, not the reader

The reason I wrote that line of dialogue was because I wanted to tell the reader when Susan last saw her father, but I didn’t do it in a realistic way.

Don’t shoehorn information into your characters’ conversations if they’re not likely to say it to each other.

One useful trick is to have your characters get into an argument.

You can convey a lot of information about a topic through their conflicting opinions, without making it sound like either of the characters is saying things for the reader’s benefit.

Here’s one way my high school self could have conveyed the same information in a more realistic way in just a few lines:

Susan: “Why didn’t you tell me Dad was leaving? Why didn’t you let me say goodbye?”

Mom: “You were only five. I wanted to protect you.”

Tip #7: Keep Your Dialogue Concise

Dialogue tends to flow out easily when you’re drafting your story, so in the editing process, you’ll need to be ruthless. Cut anything that doesn’t move the story forward.

Try not to write dialogue that feels like small talk.

You can eliminate most hellos and goodbyes, or summarize them instead of showing them. Readers don’t want to waste their time reading dialogue that they hear every day.

In addition, try not to write dialogue with too many trigger phrases, which are questions that trigger the next line of dialogue, such as:

  • “And then what?”
  • “What do you mean?”

It’s tempting to slip these in when you’re writing dialogue because they keep the conversation flowing. I still catch myself doing this from time to time.

Remember that you don’t need three lines of dialogue when one line could accomplish the same thing.

Let’s look at some dialogue examples from successful novels that follow each of our seven tips.

Dialogue Example #1: How to Create Character Voice

Let’s start with an example of a character with a distinct voice from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling.

“What happened, Harry? What happened? Is he ill? But you can cure him, can’t you?” Colin had run down from his seat and was now dancing alongside them as they left the field. Ron gave a huge heave and more slugs dribbled down his front. “Oooh,” said Colin, fascinated and raising his camera. “Can you hold him still, Harry?”

Most readers could figure out that this was Colin Creevey speaking, even if his name hadn’t been mentioned in the passage.

This is because Colin Creevey is the only character who speaks with such extreme enthusiasm, even at a time when Ron is belching slugs.

This snippet of written dialogue does a great job of showing us Colin’s personality and how much he worships his hero Harry.

Dialogue Example #2: How to Write Realistic Dialogue

Here’s an example of how to write dialogue that feels realistic from A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

“As much as I love this land, some days I think about leaving it,” Babi said. “Where to?” “Anyplace where it’s easy to forget. Pakistan first, I suppose. For a year, maybe two. Wait for our paperwork to get processed.” “And then?” “And then, well, it is a big world. Maybe America. Somewhere near the sea. Like California.”

Notice the punctuation and grammar that these two characters use when they speak.

There are many sentence fragments in this conversation like, “Anyplace where it’s easy to forget.” and “Somewhere near the sea.”

Babi often omits the verbs from his sentences, just like people do in real life. He speaks in short fragments instead of long, flowing paragraphs.

This dialogue shows who Babi is and feels similar to the way a real person would talk, while still remaining concise.

how to write realistic dialogue

Dialogue Example #3: How to Simplify Your Dialogue Tags

Here’s an example of effective dialogue tags in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

In this passage, the narrator’s been caught exploring the forbidden west wing of her new husband’s house, and she’s trying to make excuses for being there.

“I lost my way,” I said, “I was trying to find my room.” “You have come to the opposite side of the house,” she said; “this is the west wing.” “Yes, I know,” I said. “Did you go into any of the rooms?” she asked me. “No,” I said. “No, I just opened a door, I did not go in. Everything was dark, covered up in dust sheets. I’m sorry. I did not mean to disturb anything. I expect you like to keep all this shut up.” “If you wish to open up the rooms I will have it done,” she said; “you have only to tell me. The rooms are all furnished, and can be used.” “Oh, no,” I said. “No. I did not mean you to think that.”

In this passage, the only dialogue tags Du Maurier uses are “I said,” “she said,” and “she asked.”

Even so, you can feel the narrator’s dread and nervousness. Her emotions are conveyed through what she actually says, rather than through the dialogue tags.

This is a splendid example of evocative speech that doesn’t need fancy dialogue tags to make it come to life.

Dialogue Example #4: How to Balance Speech with Action

Let’s look at a passage from The Princess Bride by William Goldman, where dialogue is melded with physical action.

With a smile the hunchback pushed the knife harder against Buttercup’s throat. It was about to bring blood. “If you wish her dead, by all means keep moving," Vizzini said. The man in black froze. “Better,” Vizzini nodded. No sound now beneath the moonlight. “I understand completely what you are trying to do,” the Sicilian said finally, “and I want it quite clear that I resent your behavior. You are trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen, and I think it quite ungentlemanly.” “Let me explain,” the man in black began, starting to edge forward. “You’re killing her!” the Sicilian screamed, shoving harder with the knife. A drop of blood appeared now at Buttercup’s throat, red against white.

In this passage, William Goldman brings our attention seamlessly from the action to the dialogue and back again.

This makes the scene twice as interesting, because we’re paying attention not just to what Vizzini and the man in black are saying, but also to what they’re doing.

This is a great way to keep tension high and move the plot forward.

Dialogue Example #5: How to Write Conversations with Subtext

This example from Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card shows how to write dialogue with subtext.

Here is the scene when Ender and his sister Valentine are reunited for the first time, after Ender’s spent most of his childhood away from home training to be a soldier.

Ender didn’t wave when she walked down the hill toward him, didn’t smile when she stepped onto the floating boat slip. But she knew that he was glad to see her, knew it because of the way his eyes never left her face. “You’re bigger than I remembered,” she said stupidly. “You too,” he said. “I also remembered that you were beautiful.” “Memory does play tricks on us.” “No. Your face is the same, but I don’t remember what beautiful means anymore. Come on. Let’s go out into the lake.”

In this scene, we can tell that Valentine missed her brother terribly, and that Ender went through a lot of trauma at Battle School, without either of them saying it outright.

The conversation could have started with Valentine saying “I missed you,” but instead, she goes for a subtler opening: “You’re bigger than I remembered.”

Similarly, Ender could say “You have no idea what I’ve been through,” but instead he says, “I don’t remember what beautiful means anymore.”

We can deduce what each of these characters is thinking and feeling from what they say and from what they leave unsaid.

Dialogue Example #6: How to Show, Not Tell

Let’s look at an example from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. This scene is the story’s first introduction of the ancient creatures called the Chandrian.

“I didn’t know the Chandrian were demons,” the boy said. “I’d heard—” “They ain’t demons,” Jake said firmly. “They were the first six people to refuse Tehlu’s choice of the path, and he cursed them to wander the corners—” “Are you telling this story, Jacob Walker?” Cob said sharply. “Cause if you are, I’ll just let you get on with it.” The two men glared at each other for a long moment. Eventually Jake looked away, muttering something that could, conceivably, have been an apology. Cob turned back to the boy. “That’s the mystery of the Chandrian,” he explained. “Where do they come from? Where do they go after they’ve done their bloody deeds? Are they men who sold their souls? Demons? Spirits? No one knows.” Cob shot Jake a profoundly disdainful look. “Though every half-wit claims he knows...”

The three characters taking part in this conversation all know what the Chandrian are.

Imagine if Cob had said “As we all know, the Chandrian are mysterious demon-spirits.” We would feel like he was talking to us, not to the two other characters.

Instead, Rothfuss has all three characters try to explain their own understanding of what the Chandrian are, and then shoot each other’s explanations down.

When Cob reprimands Jake for interrupting him and then calls him a half-wit for claiming to know what he’s talking about, it feels like a realistic interaction.

This is a clever way for Rothfuss to introduce the Chandrian in a believable way.

how to show not tell

Dialogue Example #7: How to Keep Your Dialogue Concise

Here’s an example of concise dialogue from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

“Do you blame me for flunking you, boy?” he said. “No, sir! I certainly don’t,” I said. I wished to hell he’d stop calling me “boy” all the time. He tried chucking my exam paper on the bed when he was through with it. Only, he missed again, naturally. I had to get up again and pick it up and put it on top of the Atlantic Monthly. It’s boring to do that every two minutes. “What would you have done in my place?” he said. “Tell the truth, boy.” Well, you could see he really felt pretty lousy about flunking me. So I shot the bull for a while. I told him I was a real moron, and all that stuff. I told him how I would’ve done exactly the same thing if I’d been in his place, and how most people didn’t appreciate how tough it is being a teacher. That kind of stuff. The old bull.

Here, the last paragraph diverges from the prior ones. After the teacher says “Tell the truth, boy,” the rest of the conversation is summarized, rather than shown.

The summary of what the narrator says in the last paragraph—“I told him I was a real moron, and all that stuff”—serves to hammer home that this is the type of “old bull” that the narrator has fed to his teachers over and over before.

It doesn’t need to be shown because it’s not important to the narrator—it’s just “all that stuff.”

Salinger could have written out the entire conversation in dialogue, but instead he kept the dialogue concise.

Final Words

Now you know how to write clear, effective dialogue! Start with the basic rules for dialogue and try implementing the more advanced tips as you go.

What are your favorite dialogue tips? Let us know in the comments below.

Do you know how to craft memorable, compelling characters? Download this free book now:

Creating Legends: How to Craft Characters Readers Adore… or Despise!

Creating Legends: How to Craft Characters Readers Adore… or Despise!

This guide is for all the writers out there who want to create compelling, engaging, relatable characters that readers will adore… or despise., learn how to invent characters based on actions, motives, and their past..

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

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Hannah Yang is a speculative fiction writer who writes about all things strange and surreal. Her work has appeared in Analog Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, The Dark, and elsewhere, and two of her stories have been finalists for the Locus Award. Her favorite hobbies include watercolor painting, playing guitar, and rock climbing. You can follow her work on, or subscribe to her newsletter for publication updates.

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The Ultimate Narrative Essay Guide for Beginners

blog image

A narrative essay tells a story in chronological order, with an introduction that introduces the characters and sets the scene. Then a series of events leads to a climax or turning point, and finally a resolution or reflection on the experience.

Speaking of which, are you in sixes and sevens about narrative essays? Don’t worry this ultimate expert guide will wipe out all your doubts. So let’s get started.

Table of Contents

Everything You Need to Know About Narrative Essay

What is a narrative essay.

When you go through a narrative essay definition, you would know that a narrative essay purpose is to tell a story. It’s all about sharing an experience or event and is different from other types of essays because it’s more focused on how the event made you feel or what you learned from it, rather than just presenting facts or an argument. Let’s explore more details on this interesting write-up and get to know how to write a narrative essay.

Elements of a Narrative Essay

Here’s a breakdown of the key elements of a narrative essay:

A narrative essay has a beginning, middle, and end. It builds up tension and excitement and then wraps things up in a neat package.

Real people, including the writer, often feature in personal narratives. Details of the characters and their thoughts, feelings, and actions can help readers to relate to the tale.

It’s really important to know when and where something happened so we can get a good idea of the context. Going into detail about what it looks like helps the reader to really feel like they’re part of the story.

Conflict or Challenge 

A story in a narrative essay usually involves some kind of conflict or challenge that moves the plot along. It could be something inside the character, like a personal battle, or something from outside, like an issue they have to face in the world.

Theme or Message

A narrative essay isn’t just about recounting an event – it’s about showing the impact it had on you and what you took away from it. It’s an opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings about the experience, and how it changed your outlook.

Emotional Impact

The author is trying to make the story they’re telling relatable, engaging, and memorable by using language and storytelling to evoke feelings in whoever’s reading it.

Narrative essays let writers have a blast telling stories about their own lives. It’s an opportunity to share insights and impart wisdom, or just have some fun with the reader. Descriptive language, sensory details, dialogue, and a great narrative voice are all essentials for making the story come alive.

The Purpose of a Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is more than just a story – it’s a way to share a meaningful, engaging, and relatable experience with the reader. Includes:

Sharing Personal Experience

Narrative essays are a great way for writers to share their personal experiences, feelings, thoughts, and reflections. It’s an opportunity to connect with readers and make them feel something.

Entertainment and Engagement

The essay attempts to keep the reader interested by using descriptive language, storytelling elements, and a powerful voice. It attempts to pull them in and make them feel involved by creating suspense, mystery, or an emotional connection.

Conveying a Message or Insight

Narrative essays are more than just a story – they aim to teach you something. They usually have a moral lesson, a new understanding, or a realization about life that the author gained from the experience.

Building Empathy and Understanding

By telling their stories, people can give others insight into different perspectives, feelings, and situations. Sharing these tales can create compassion in the reader and help broaden their knowledge of different life experiences.

Inspiration and Motivation

Stories about personal struggles, successes, and transformations can be really encouraging to people who are going through similar situations. It can provide them with hope and guidance, and let them know that they’re not alone.

Reflecting on Life’s Significance

These essays usually make you think about the importance of certain moments in life or the impact of certain experiences. They make you look deep within yourself and ponder on the things you learned or how you changed because of those events.

Demonstrating Writing Skills

Coming up with a gripping narrative essay takes serious writing chops, like vivid descriptions, powerful language, timing, and organization. It’s an opportunity for writers to show off their story-telling abilities.

Preserving Personal History

Sometimes narrative essays are used to record experiences and special moments that have an emotional resonance. They can be used to preserve individual memories or for future generations to look back on.

Cultural and Societal Exploration

Personal stories can look at cultural or social aspects, giving us an insight into customs, opinions, or social interactions seen through someone’s own experience.

Format of a Narrative Essay

Narrative essays are quite flexible in terms of format, which allows the writer to tell a story in a creative and compelling way. Here’s a quick breakdown of the narrative essay format, along with some examples:


Set the scene and introduce the story.

Engage the reader and establish the tone of the narrative.

Hook: Start with a captivating opening line to grab the reader’s attention. For instance:

Example:  “The scorching sun beat down on us as we trekked through the desert, our water supply dwindling.”

Background Information: Provide necessary context or background without giving away the entire story.

Example:  “It was the summer of 2015 when I embarked on a life-changing journey to…”

Thesis Statement or Narrative Purpose

Present the main idea or the central message of the essay.

Offer a glimpse of what the reader can expect from the narrative.

Thesis Statement: This isn’t as rigid as in other essays but can be a sentence summarizing the essence of the story.

Example:  “Little did I know, that seemingly ordinary hike would teach me invaluable lessons about resilience and friendship.”

Body Paragraphs

Present the sequence of events in chronological order.

Develop characters, setting, conflict, and resolution.

Story Progression : Describe events in the order they occurred, focusing on details that evoke emotions and create vivid imagery.

Example : Detail the trek through the desert, the challenges faced, interactions with fellow hikers, and the pivotal moments.

Character Development : Introduce characters and their roles in the story. Show their emotions, thoughts, and actions.

Example : Describe how each character reacted to the dwindling water supply and supported each other through adversity.

Dialogue and Interactions : Use dialogue to bring the story to life and reveal character personalities.

Example : “Sarah handed me her last bottle of water, saying, ‘We’re in this together.'”

Reach the peak of the story, the moment of highest tension or significance.

Turning Point: Highlight the most crucial moment or realization in the narrative.

Example:  “As the sun dipped below the horizon and hope seemed lost, a distant sound caught our attention—the rescue team’s helicopters.”

Provide closure to the story.

Reflect on the significance of the experience and its impact.

Reflection : Summarize the key lessons learned or insights gained from the experience.

Example : “That hike taught me the true meaning of resilience and the invaluable support of friendship in challenging times.”

Closing Thought : End with a memorable line that reinforces the narrative’s message or leaves a lasting impression.

Example : “As we boarded the helicopters, I knew this adventure would forever be etched in my heart.”

Example Summary:

Imagine a narrative about surviving a challenging hike through the desert, emphasizing the bonds formed and lessons learned. The narrative essay structure might look like starting with an engaging scene, narrating the hardships faced, showcasing the characters’ resilience, and culminating in a powerful realization about friendship and endurance.

Different Types of Narrative Essays

There are a bunch of different types of narrative essays – each one focuses on different elements of storytelling and has its own purpose. Here’s a breakdown of the narrative essay types and what they mean.

Personal Narrative

Description : Tells a personal story or experience from the writer’s life.

Purpose: Reflects on personal growth, lessons learned, or significant moments.

Example of Narrative Essay Types:

Topic : “The Day I Conquered My Fear of Public Speaking”

Focus: Details the experience, emotions, and eventual triumph over a fear of public speaking during a pivotal event.

Descriptive Narrative

Description : Emphasizes vivid details and sensory imagery.

Purpose : Creates a sensory experience, painting a vivid picture for the reader.

Topic : “A Walk Through the Enchanted Forest”

Focus : Paints a detailed picture of the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings experienced during a walk through a mystical forest.

Autobiographical Narrative

Description: Chronicles significant events or moments from the writer’s life.

Purpose: Provides insights into the writer’s life, experiences, and growth.

Topic: “Lessons from My Childhood: How My Grandmother Shaped Who I Am”

Focus: Explores pivotal moments and lessons learned from interactions with a significant family member.

Experiential Narrative

Description: Relays experiences beyond the writer’s personal life.

Purpose: Shares experiences, travels, or events from a broader perspective.

Topic: “Volunteering in a Remote Village: A Journey of Empathy”

Focus: Chronicles the writer’s volunteering experience, highlighting interactions with a community and personal growth.

Literary Narrative

Description: Incorporates literary elements like symbolism, allegory, or thematic explorations.

Purpose: Uses storytelling for deeper explorations of themes or concepts.

Topic: “The Symbolism of the Red Door: A Journey Through Change”

Focus: Uses a red door as a symbol, exploring its significance in the narrator’s life and the theme of transition.

Historical Narrative

Description: Recounts historical events or periods through a personal lens.

Purpose: Presents history through personal experiences or perspectives.

Topic: “A Grandfather’s Tales: Living Through the Great Depression”

Focus: Shares personal stories from a family member who lived through a historical era, offering insights into that period.

Digital or Multimedia Narrative

Description: Incorporates multimedia elements like images, videos, or audio to tell a story.

Purpose: Explores storytelling through various digital platforms or formats.

Topic: “A Travel Diary: Exploring Europe Through Vlogs”

Focus: Combines video clips, photos, and personal narration to document a travel experience.

How to Choose a Topic for Your Narrative Essay?

Selecting a compelling topic for your narrative essay is crucial as it sets the stage for your storytelling. Choosing a boring topic is one of the narrative essay mistakes to avoid . Here’s a detailed guide on how to choose the right topic:

Reflect on Personal Experiences

  • Significant Moments:

Moments that had a profound impact on your life or shaped your perspective.

Example: A moment of triumph, overcoming a fear, a life-changing decision, or an unforgettable experience.

  • Emotional Resonance:

Events that evoke strong emotions or feelings.

Example: Joy, fear, sadness, excitement, or moments of realization.

  • Lessons Learned:

Experiences that taught you valuable lessons or brought about personal growth.

Example: Challenges that led to personal development, shifts in mindset, or newfound insights.

Explore Unique Perspectives

  • Uncommon Experiences:

Unique or unconventional experiences that might captivate the reader’s interest.

Example: Unusual travels, interactions with different cultures, or uncommon hobbies.

  • Different Points of View:

Stories from others’ perspectives that impacted you deeply.

Example: A family member’s story, a friend’s experience, or a historical event from a personal lens.

Focus on Specific Themes or Concepts

  • Themes or Concepts of Interest:

Themes or ideas you want to explore through storytelling.

Example: Friendship, resilience, identity, cultural diversity, or personal transformation.

  • Symbolism or Metaphor:

Using symbols or metaphors as the core of your narrative.

Example: Exploring the symbolism of an object or a place in relation to a broader theme.

Consider Your Audience and Purpose

  • Relevance to Your Audience:

Topics that resonate with your audience’s interests or experiences.

Example: Choose a relatable theme or experience that your readers might connect with emotionally.

  • Impact or Message:

What message or insight do you want to convey through your story?

Example: Choose a topic that aligns with the message or lesson you aim to impart to your readers.

Brainstorm and Evaluate Ideas

  • Free Writing or Mind Mapping:

Process: Write down all potential ideas without filtering. Mind maps or free-writing exercises can help generate diverse ideas.

  • Evaluate Feasibility:

The depth of the story, the availability of vivid details, and your personal connection to the topic.

Imagine you’re considering topics for a narrative essay. You reflect on your experiences and decide to explore the topic of “Overcoming Stage Fright: How a School Play Changed My Perspective.” This topic resonates because it involves a significant challenge you faced and the personal growth it brought about.

Narrative Essay Topics

50 easy narrative essay topics.

  • Learning to Ride a Bike
  • My First Day of School
  • A Surprise Birthday Party
  • The Day I Got Lost
  • Visiting a Haunted House
  • An Encounter with a Wild Animal
  • My Favorite Childhood Toy
  • The Best Vacation I Ever Had
  • An Unforgettable Family Gathering
  • Conquering a Fear of Heights
  • A Special Gift I Received
  • Moving to a New City
  • The Most Memorable Meal
  • Getting Caught in a Rainstorm
  • An Act of Kindness I Witnessed
  • The First Time I Cooked a Meal
  • My Experience with a New Hobby
  • The Day I Met My Best Friend
  • A Hike in the Mountains
  • Learning a New Language
  • An Embarrassing Moment
  • Dealing with a Bully
  • My First Job Interview
  • A Sporting Event I Attended
  • The Scariest Dream I Had
  • Helping a Stranger
  • The Joy of Achieving a Goal
  • A Road Trip Adventure
  • Overcoming a Personal Challenge
  • The Significance of a Family Tradition
  • An Unusual Pet I Owned
  • A Misunderstanding with a Friend
  • Exploring an Abandoned Building
  • My Favorite Book and Why
  • The Impact of a Role Model
  • A Cultural Celebration I Participated In
  • A Valuable Lesson from a Teacher
  • A Trip to the Zoo
  • An Unplanned Adventure
  • Volunteering Experience
  • A Moment of Forgiveness
  • A Decision I Regretted
  • A Special Talent I Have
  • The Importance of Family Traditions
  • The Thrill of Performing on Stage
  • A Moment of Sudden Inspiration
  • The Meaning of Home
  • Learning to Play a Musical Instrument
  • A Childhood Memory at the Park
  • Witnessing a Beautiful Sunset

Narrative Essay Topics for College Students

  • Discovering a New Passion
  • Overcoming Academic Challenges
  • Navigating Cultural Differences
  • Embracing Independence: Moving Away from Home
  • Exploring Career Aspirations
  • Coping with Stress in College
  • The Impact of a Mentor in My Life
  • Balancing Work and Studies
  • Facing a Fear of Public Speaking
  • Exploring a Semester Abroad
  • The Evolution of My Study Habits
  • Volunteering Experience That Changed My Perspective
  • The Role of Technology in Education
  • Finding Balance: Social Life vs. Academics
  • Learning a New Skill Outside the Classroom
  • Reflecting on Freshman Year Challenges
  • The Joys and Struggles of Group Projects
  • My Experience with Internship or Work Placement
  • Challenges of Time Management in College
  • Redefining Success Beyond Grades
  • The Influence of Literature on My Thinking
  • The Impact of Social Media on College Life
  • Overcoming Procrastination
  • Lessons from a Leadership Role
  • Exploring Diversity on Campus
  • Exploring Passion for Environmental Conservation
  • An Eye-Opening Course That Changed My Perspective
  • Living with Roommates: Challenges and Lessons
  • The Significance of Extracurricular Activities
  • The Influence of a Professor on My Academic Journey
  • Discussing Mental Health in College
  • The Evolution of My Career Goals
  • Confronting Personal Biases Through Education
  • The Experience of Attending a Conference or Symposium
  • Challenges Faced by Non-Native English Speakers in College
  • The Impact of Traveling During Breaks
  • Exploring Identity: Cultural or Personal
  • The Impact of Music or Art on My Life
  • Addressing Diversity in the Classroom
  • Exploring Entrepreneurial Ambitions
  • My Experience with Research Projects
  • Overcoming Impostor Syndrome in College
  • The Importance of Networking in College
  • Finding Resilience During Tough Times
  • The Impact of Global Issues on Local Perspectives
  • The Influence of Family Expectations on Education
  • Lessons from a Part-Time Job
  • Exploring the College Sports Culture
  • The Role of Technology in Modern Education
  • The Journey of Self-Discovery Through Education

Narrative Essay Comparison

Narrative essay vs. descriptive essay.

Here’s our first narrative essay comparison! While both narrative and descriptive essays focus on vividly portraying a subject or an event, they differ in their primary objectives and approaches. Now, let’s delve into the nuances of comparison on narrative essays.

Narrative Essay:

Storytelling: Focuses on narrating a personal experience or event.

Chronological Order: Follows a structured timeline of events to tell a story.

Message or Lesson: Often includes a central message, moral, or lesson learned from the experience.

Engagement: Aims to captivate the reader through a compelling storyline and character development.

First-Person Perspective: Typically narrated from the writer’s point of view, using “I” and expressing personal emotions and thoughts.

Plot Development: Emphasizes a plot with a beginning, middle, climax, and resolution.

Character Development: Focuses on describing characters, their interactions, emotions, and growth.

Conflict or Challenge: Usually involves a central conflict or challenge that drives the narrative forward.

Dialogue: Incorporates conversations to bring characters and their interactions to life.

Reflection: Concludes with reflection or insight gained from the experience.

Descriptive Essay:

Vivid Description: Aims to vividly depict a person, place, object, or event.

Imagery and Details: Focuses on sensory details to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind.

Emotion through Description: Uses descriptive language to evoke emotions and engage the reader’s senses.

Painting a Picture: Creates a sensory-rich description allowing the reader to visualize the subject.

Imagery and Sensory Details: Focuses on providing rich sensory descriptions, using vivid language and adjectives.

Point of Focus: Concentrates on describing a specific subject or scene in detail.

Spatial Organization: Often employs spatial organization to describe from one area or aspect to another.

Objective Observations: Typically avoids the use of personal opinions or emotions; instead, the focus remains on providing a detailed and objective description.


Focus: Narrative essays emphasize storytelling, while descriptive essays focus on vividly describing a subject or scene.

Perspective: Narrative essays are often written from a first-person perspective, while descriptive essays may use a more objective viewpoint.

Purpose: Narrative essays aim to convey a message or lesson through a story, while descriptive essays aim to paint a detailed picture for the reader without necessarily conveying a specific message.

Narrative Essay vs. Argumentative Essay

The narrative essay and the argumentative essay serve distinct purposes and employ different approaches:

Engagement and Emotion: Aims to captivate the reader through a compelling story.

Reflective: Often includes reflection on the significance of the experience or lessons learned.

First-Person Perspective: Typically narrated from the writer’s point of view, sharing personal emotions and thoughts.

Plot Development: Emphasizes a storyline with a beginning, middle, climax, and resolution.

Message or Lesson: Conveys a central message, moral, or insight derived from the experience.

Argumentative Essay:

Persuasion and Argumentation: Aims to persuade the reader to adopt the writer’s viewpoint on a specific topic.

Logical Reasoning: Presents evidence, facts, and reasoning to support a particular argument or stance.

Debate and Counterarguments: Acknowledge opposing views and counter them with evidence and reasoning.

Thesis Statement: Includes a clear thesis statement that outlines the writer’s position on the topic.

Thesis and Evidence: Starts with a strong thesis statement and supports it with factual evidence, statistics, expert opinions, or logical reasoning.

Counterarguments: Addresses opposing viewpoints and provides rebuttals with evidence.

Logical Structure: Follows a logical structure with an introduction, body paragraphs presenting arguments and evidence, and a conclusion reaffirming the thesis.

Formal Language: Uses formal language and avoids personal anecdotes or emotional appeals.

Objective: Argumentative essays focus on presenting a logical argument supported by evidence, while narrative essays prioritize storytelling and personal reflection.

Purpose: Argumentative essays aim to persuade and convince the reader of a particular viewpoint, while narrative essays aim to engage, entertain, and share personal experiences.

Structure: Narrative essays follow a storytelling structure with character development and plot, while argumentative essays follow a more formal, structured approach with logical arguments and evidence.

In essence, while both essays involve writing and presenting information, the narrative essay focuses on sharing a personal experience, whereas the argumentative essay aims to persuade the audience by presenting a well-supported argument.

Narrative Essay vs. Personal Essay

While there can be an overlap between narrative and personal essays, they have distinctive characteristics:

Storytelling: Emphasizes recounting a specific experience or event in a structured narrative form.

Engagement through Story: Aims to engage the reader through a compelling story with characters, plot, and a central theme or message.

Reflective: Often includes reflection on the significance of the experience and the lessons learned.

First-Person Perspective: Typically narrated from the writer’s viewpoint, expressing personal emotions and thoughts.

Plot Development: Focuses on developing a storyline with a clear beginning, middle, climax, and resolution.

Character Development: Includes descriptions of characters, their interactions, emotions, and growth.

Central Message: Conveys a central message, moral, or insight derived from the experience.

Personal Essay:

Exploration of Ideas or Themes: Explores personal ideas, opinions, or reflections on a particular topic or subject.

Expression of Thoughts and Opinions: Expresses the writer’s thoughts, feelings, and perspectives on a specific subject matter.

Reflection and Introspection: Often involves self-reflection and introspection on personal experiences, beliefs, or values.

Varied Structure and Content: Can encompass various forms, including memoirs, personal anecdotes, or reflections on life experiences.

Flexibility in Structure: Allows for diverse structures and forms based on the writer’s intent, which could be narrative-like or more reflective.

Theme-Centric Writing: Focuses on exploring a central theme or idea, with personal anecdotes or experiences supporting and illustrating the theme.

Expressive Language: Utilizes descriptive and expressive language to convey personal perspectives, emotions, and opinions.

Focus: Narrative essays primarily focus on storytelling through a structured narrative, while personal essays encompass a broader range of personal expression, which can include storytelling but isn’t limited to it.

Structure: Narrative essays have a more structured plot development with characters and a clear sequence of events, while personal essays might adopt various structures, focusing more on personal reflection, ideas, or themes.

Intent: While both involve personal experiences, narrative essays emphasize telling a story with a message or lesson learned, while personal essays aim to explore personal thoughts, feelings, or opinions on a broader range of topics or themes.

5 Easy Steps for Writing a Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is more than just telling a story. It’s also meant to engage the reader, get them thinking, and leave a lasting impact. Whether it’s to amuse, motivate, teach, or reflect, these essays are a great way to communicate with your audience. This interesting narrative essay guide was all about letting you understand the narrative essay, its importance, and how can you write one.

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  • How-To Guides

How To Write Dialogue In A Story (With Examples)

One of the biggest mistakes made by writers is how they use dialogue in their stories. Today, we are going to teach you how to write dialogue in a story using some easy and effective techniques. So, get ready to learn some of the best techniques and tips for writing dialogue!

There are two main reasons why good dialogue is so important in works of fiction. First, good dialogue helps keep the reader interested and engaged in the story. Second, it makes your work easier to write, read and understand. So, if you want to write dialogue that is interesting, engaging and easy to read, keep on reading. We will be teaching you the best techniques and tips for writing dialogue in a story.

Internal vs External Dialogue

Direct vs indirect dialogue, 20 tips for formatting dialogue in stories, step 1: use a dialogue outline, step 2: write down a script, step 3: edit & review your script, step 4: sprinkle in some narrative, step 5: format your dialogue, what is dialogue .

Dialogue is the spoken words that are spoken between the characters of a story. It is also known as the conversation between the characters. Dialogue is a vital part of a story. It is the vehicle of the characters’ thoughts and emotions. Good dialogue helps show the reader how the characters think and feel. It also helps the reader better understand what is happening in the story. Good dialogue should be interesting, informative and natural. 

In a story, dialogue can be expressed internally as thoughts, or externally through conversations between characters. A character thinking to themself would be considered internal dialogue. Here there is no one else, just one character thinking or speaking to themselves:

Mary thought to herself, “what if I can do better…”

While two or more characters talking to each other in a scene would be an external dialogue:

“Watch out!” cried Sam. “What’s wrong with you?” laughed Kate.

In most cases, the words spoken by your character will be inside quotation marks. This is called direct dialogue. And then everything outside the quotation marks is called narrative:

“What do you want?” shrieked Penelope as she grabbed her notebooks. “Oh, nothing… Just checking if you needed anything,” sneered Peter as he tried to peek over at her notes.

Indirect dialogue is a summary of your dialogue. It lets the reader know that a conversation happened without repeating it exactly. For example:

She was still fuming from last night’s argument. After being called a liar and a thief, she had no choice but to leave home for good.

Direct dialogue is useful for quick conversations, while indirect dialogue is useful for summarising long pieces of dialogue. Which otherwise can get boring for the reader. Writers can combine both types of dialogue to increase tension and add drama to their stories.

Now you know some of the different types of dialogue in stories, let’s learn how to write dialogue in a story.

Here are the main tips to remember when formatting dialogue in stories or works of fiction:

  • Always use quotation marks: All direct dialogue is written inside quotation marks, along with any punctuation relating to that dialogue.

example of dialogue 1

  • Don’t forget about dialogue tags: Dialogue tags are used to explain how a character said something.  Each tag has at least one noun or pronoun, and one verb indicating how the dialogue is spoken. For example, he said, she cried, they laughed and so on.

example of dialogue 2

  • Dialogue before tags: Dialogue before the dialogue tags should start with an uppercase. The dialogue tag itself begins with a lowercase.

example of dialogue 3

  • Dialogue after tags: Both the dialogue and dialogue tags start with an uppercase to signify the start of a conversation. The dialogue tags also have a comma afterwards, before the first set of quotation marks.

example of dialogue 4

  • Lowercase for continued dialogue: If the same character continues to speak after the dialogue tags or action, then this dialogue continues with a lowercase.

example of dialogue 5

  • Action after complete dialogue: Any action or narrative text after completed dialogue starts with an uppercase as a new sentence.

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Action interrupting dialogue: If the same character pauses their dialogue to do an action, then this action starts with a lowercase.

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Interruptions by other characters: If another character Interrupts a character’s dialogue, then their action starts with an uppercase on a new line. And an em dash (-) is used inside the quotation marks of the dialogue that was interrupted. 

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Use single quotes correctly: Single quotes mean that a character is quoting someone else.

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • New paragraphs equal new speaker: When a new character starts speaking, it should be written in a new paragraph. 

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Use question marks correctly: If the dialogue ends with a question mark, then the part after the dialogue should begin with a lowercase.

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Exclamation marks: Similar to question marks, the next sentence should begin with a lowercase. 

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Em dashes equal being cut off: When a character has been interrupted or cut off in the middle of their speech, use an em dash (-).

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Ellipses mean trailing speech: When a character is trailing off in their speech or going on and on about something use ellipses (…). This is also good to use when a character does not know what to say.

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Spilt long dialogue into paragraphs: If a character is giving a long speech, then you can split this dialogue into multiple paragraphs. 

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Use commas appropriately: If it is not the end of the sentence then end the dialogue with a comma.

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Full stops to end dialogue: Dialogue ending with a full stop means it is the end of the entire sentence. 

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

  • Avoid fancy dialogue tags: For example, ‘he moderated’ or ‘she articulated’. As this can distract the reader from what your characters are actually saying and the content of your story. It’s better to keep things simple, such as using he said or she said.
  • No need for names: Avoid repeating your character’s name too many times. You could use pronouns or even nicknames. 
  • Keep it informal: Think about how real conversations happen. Do people use technical or fancy language when speaking? Think about your character’s tone of voice and personality, what would they say in a given situation? 

Remember these rules, and you’ll be able to master dialogue writing in no time!

How to Write Dialogue in 5 Steps

Dialogue is tricky. Follow these easy steps to write effective dialogue in your stories or works of fiction:

A dialogue outline is a draft of what your characters will say before you actually write the dialogue down. This draft can be in the form of notes or any scribblings about your planned dialogue. Using your overall book outline , you can pinpoint the areas where you expect to see the most dialogue used in your story. You can then plan out the conversation between characters in these areas. 

A good thing about using a dialogue outline is that you can avoid your characters saying the same thing over and over again. You can also skim out any unnecessary dialogue scenes if you think they are unnecessary or pointless. 

Here is an example of a dialogue outline for a story:

dialogue outline example

You even use a spreadsheet to outline your story’s dialogue scenes.

In this step, you will just write down what the characters are saying in full. Don’t worry too much about punctuation and the correct formatting of dialogue. The purpose of this step is to determine what the characters will actually say in the scene and whether this provides any interesting information to your readers.

Start by writing down the full script of your character’s conversations for each major dialogue scene in your story. Here is an example of a dialogue script for a story:

write down your script

Review your script from the previous step, and think about how it can be shortened or made more interesting. You might think about changing a few words that the characters use to make it sound more natural. Normally the use of slang words and informal language is a great way to make dialogue between characters sound more natural. You might also think about replacing any names with nicknames that characters in a close relationship would use. 

The script might also be too long with plenty of unnecessary details that can be removed or summarised as part of the narration in your story (or as indirect dialogue). Remember the purpose of dialogue is to give your story emotion and make your characters more realistic. At this point you might also want to refer back to your character profiles , to see if the script of each character matches their personality. 

edit your script

Once your script has been perfected, you can add some actions to make your dialogue feel more believable to readers. Action or narrative is the stuff that your characters are actually doing throughout or in between dialogue. For example, a character might be packing up their suitcase, as they are talking about their holiday plans. This ‘narrative’ is a great way to break up a long piece of dialogue which otherwise could become boring and tedious for readers. 

add action to script

You have now planned your dialogue for your story. The final step is to incorporate these dialogue scenes into your story. Remember to follow our formatting dialogue formatting rules explained above to create effective dialogue for your stories!

format dialogue example

That’s all for today! We hope this post has taught you how to write dialogue in a story effectively. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below!

How To Write Dialogue In A Story

Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.

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How to Format Dialogue: Complete Guide

Dialogue formatting matters. Whether you’re working on an essay, novel, or any other form of creative writing. Perfectly formatted dialogue makes your work more readable and engaging for the audience.

In this article, you’ll learn the dialogue formatting rules. Also, we’ll share examples of dialogue in essays for you to see the details.

What is a Dialogue Format?

Dialogue format is a writing form authors use to present characters' communication. It's common for play scripts, literature works, and other forms of storytelling.

A good format helps the audience understand who is speaking and what they say. It makes the communication clear and enjoyable. In dialogue writing, we follow the basic grammar rules like punctuation and capitalization. They help us illustrate the speaker’s ideas.

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

General Rules to Follow When Formatting a Dialogue

Dialogue writing is an essential skill for both professionals and scholars . It shows your ability to express the issues and ideas of other people in different setups. The core rules of formatting are about punctuation. So, below is a quick reminder on punctuation marks’ names:

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

And now, to practice.

Please follow these rules for proper dialogue formatting:

  •  Use quotation marks. Enclose the speaker’s words in double quotations. It helps readers distinguish between a character’s speech and a narrator’s comments.
  •  Place punctuation inside quotation marks. All punctuation like commas, exclamations, or interrogation marks, go inside the double quotations.
  •  Keep dialogue tags behind quotation marks. A dialogue tag is (1) words framing direct speech to convey the context and emotions of a conversation. For example, in (“I can’t believe this is you,” she replied.), the dialogue tag is “she replied.”
  •  Use an ellipsis or em-dashes for pauses or interruptions. To show interruptions or pauses, end phrases with ellipses inside quotations. Em-dashes go outside quotations. No other extra marks are necessary here.
  •  Remember a character’s voice.  Ensure that each character’s phrases reflect their background and personality.

5 More Rules to Know (+ Examples of Dialogue)

For proper formatting of dialogue in writing, stick to the following rules:

1. Each speaker’s saying comes in a new paragraph

Begin a new paragraph whenever a new character starts speaking. It allows you to differentiate speakers and make their conversation look more organized. (2)

“Has Mr. de Winter been in?” I said.    “Yes, Madam,” said Robert; “he came in just after two, and had a quick lunch, and then went out again. He asked for you and Frith said he thought you must have gone down to see the ship.”    “Did he say when he would be back again?” I asked.    “No, Madam.” — from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

2. Separate dialogue tags with commas

When using dialogue tags ( e.g., “she said,” “he replied,”), separate them with commas. 

For example:

“You’ve got to do something right now , ” Aaron said , “Mom is really hurting. She says you have to drive her to the hospital.” “Actually, Dad , ” said Caleb, sidling in with his catalog , “There’s someplace you can drive me, too.” “No, Caleb.” — from The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

3. When quoting within dialogue, place single quotes

If a character cites somebody or something while speaking, we call it a reported dialogue. In this case, use single quotations within double ones you place for a direct speech. It will help readers see that it’s a quote.

John started to cry. “When you said, ‘I never wanted to meet you again in my life!’ It hurts my feelings.”

4. You can divide a character’s long speech into paragraphs

Dialogue writing is different when a person speaks for a longer time. It’s fine to divide it into shorter paragraphs. Ensure the proper quotation marks placing:

 The first quotation mark goes at the beginning of the dialogue. Each later paragraph also starts with it until that direct speech ends.

 The second quotation mark — the one “closing” the monologue — goes at the dialogue’s end.

Josphat took a deep breath and began. “ Here’s the things about lions. They’re dangerous creatures. They only know how to kill. Have you ever seen a lion in an open area? Probably not. Because if you had you’d be dead now. “ I saw a lion once. I was fetching firewood to cook lunch. All of a sudden I found myself face to face with a lion. My heart stopped. I knew it was my end on earth. If it wasn’t the poachers we wouldn’t be having this talk. ”

Yet, you can keep a long text as a whole by adding some context with dialogue tags. Like here:

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

As you can see, there’s no quotation mark at the end of the paragraph in red. It’s because the next “Ha! ha!” paragraph continues the character’s speech.

5. Use action beats

Describe actions to provide context and keep readers engaged. Help them “hear” your characters. Punctuation also helps here: exclamation (!) or interrogation with exclamations (?!) demonstrate the corresponding tone of your narrative.

He slammed the door and shouted , “I can’t believe you did that ! “

Mistakes to Avoid When Formatting Dialogue

A good dialogue is a powerful instrument for a writer to show the character’s nature to the audience. Below are the mistakes to avoid in formatting if you want to reach that goal.

 So, please don’t :

  • Allow characters to speak for too long. Writing long paragraphs will bore the reader, making them skip through your speech. Short but sweet talk is the best. When writing, aim to be brief, dynamic, and purposeful. If your character speaks too much, generating opinion essays , ensure this speech makes sense and serves a bigger purpose.
  • Overburden dialogue with exposition.  Avoid telling the story background or building sophisticated words in your characters’ speeches. Instead, reveal the narrative content in small bursts and blend it around the rest of the prose. Convey it through your character’s actions and thoughts rather than summaries and explanations.
  • Create rhetorical flourishes. Make your characters sound natural. Let them speak the way they’d do if they were real people. Consider their age, profession, and cultural background — and choose lexical items that fit them most.
  • Use repetitive dialogue tags. Constant “he asked” and “she said” sounds monotonous. Diversify your tags: use power verbs, synonyms, and dialogue beats.

Frequently Asked Questions by Students

How to format dialogue in an essay.

Formatting a dialogue in an essay is tricky for most students. Here’s how to do it: Enclose the speaker’s words with double quotations and start every other character’s line from a new paragraph. Stick to the citation styles like APA or MLA to ensure credibility. 

How to format dialogue in a novel?

 A dialogue in a novel follows all the standard rules for clarity and readability. Ensure to use attributions, quotation marks, and paragraph format. It makes your dialogue flow, grabbing the reader’s attention.

How to format dialogue in a book?

Dialogue formatting in a book is critical for storytelling. It helps the audience distinguish the hero’s words. Follow the general rules we’ve discussed above:

Use double quotations and isolate dialogue tags with commas. Remember to place the discussion in blocks for better readability.

How to format dialogue between two characters?

A two-character dialogue offers the best way to prove successful formatting skills. Ensure you use action beats, quotations, and attribution tags. It allows readers to follow the conversation and understand it better.

What is the purpose of dialogue in a narrative essay?  

Dialogue writing is the exchange of views between two or more people to reach a consensus. It reveals the character’s attitude and argumentation. Last but not least, it helps convey the descriptive nature of your narrative essay.


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What is the Purpose of Dialogue in a Narrative Essay

October 25, 2023

Understanding Dialogue in Narrative Essays

Dialogue plays a vital role in narrative essays, serving various purposes that enhance the overall storytelling experience. This article will explore the significance of incorporating dialogue into narrative essays and shed light on its purpose.

Firstly, dialogue breathes life into the characters, making them more relatable and engaging for the readers. Through conversations and interactions, the characters’ personalities, emotions, and motivations are revealed, allowing the audience to connect with them on a deeper level. Dialogue creates a sense of realism, enabling the readers to visualize the characters’ actions, gestures, and expressions, thereby enriching the narrative.

Moreover, dialogue serves as a tool for exposition and advancing the plot. It can provide background information, introduce conflicts, or foreshadow future events. By integrating dialogue strategically, authors can effectively convey information without lengthy paragraphs or excessive narration, keeping the readers captivated and maintaining the flow of the story.

Furthermore, dialogue aids in building tension and creating dramatic moments in narrative essays. It allows for the expression of differing opinions, conflicting emotions, or heated arguments between characters, adding intensity and excitement to the storyline. This helps to sustain the reader’s interest and keeps them engaged throughout the narrative.

In conclusion, dialogue serves a crucial purpose in narrative essays. It breathes life into characters, advances the plot, and creates tension and drama. By incorporating dialogue effectively, writers can enhance the overall quality of their narrative essays, making them more compelling and enjoyable for readers.

Enhancing Character Development

Dialogue is a powerful tool for enhancing character development in narrative essays. By using dialogue, writers can delve deeper into the personalities of their characters and provide readers with a deeper understanding of who they are. Here are several ways dialogue helps in enhancing character development:

  • Revealing traits and motivations: Through conversations, characters can express their thoughts, desires, fears, and aspirations, allowing readers to gain insight into their motivations and values. Dialogue provides a platform for characters to reveal their true selves and showcase their unique traits.
  • Showing relationships and dynamics: Dialogue allows writers to portray the dynamics between characters. It showcases how they interact, whether they are friends, enemies, or lovers. Conversations provide opportunities to display conflicts, tension, or camaraderie, giving readers a glimpse into the complexity of relationships.
  • Demonstrating growth and change: Dialogue helps to showcase character development over the course of the narrative. By observing how characters communicate and express themselves, readers can witness their growth, changing attitudes, and evolving perspectives.
  • Adding authenticity: Dialogue adds authenticity to characters, making them more believable and relatable. Through their conversations, characters can speak with unique voices, dialects, or mannerisms, making them feel like real individuals with distinct personalities.

In conclusion, dialogue is a powerful tool for enhancing character development in narrative essays. By using conversations, writers can reveal traits and motivations, show relationships and dynamics, demonstrate growth and change, and add authenticity to their characters. Skillful use of dialogue allows readers to connect with the characters on a deeper level, enriching their reading experience.

Advancing the Plot

Dialogue is an effective way to advance the plot in narrative essays. Conversations between characters can serve as a powerful narrative device, driving the story forward and keeping readers engaged. Here are several ways dialogue helps to advance the plot:

  • Introducing conflict: Dialogue can introduce conflicts between characters, creating tension and propelling the plot forward. Through their conversations, characters can express differing opinions or goals, leading to an exciting clash of ideas.
  • Conveying information: Dialogue can be used to deliver important information to readers, without resorting to lengthy exposition or description. By providing details through conversations, writers can keep the narrative moving while informing the reader.
  • Foreshadowing events: Dialogue can foreshadow future events, building anticipation for what’s to come. Characters can make cryptic comments or hint at what’s to come, leaving readers eager for more information.
  • Establishing mood: Dialogue can set the tone for a scene and create a specific mood or atmosphere. The words chosen, the tone of the conversation, and the way the characters interact can all contribute to the overall feeling of the story.

In conclusion, dialogue is a valuable tool for advancing the plot in narrative essays. It can introduce conflict, convey information, foreshadow events, and establish mood. Skillful use of dialogue can keep readers engaged and propel the narrative forward, allowing the story to unfold in an exciting and captivating way.

Generate captivating narrative essays with our new AI Essay Writer .

Creating Realism and Authenticity

Dialogue plays a crucial role in creating realism and authenticity in narrative essays. By incorporating natural and believable conversations between characters, writers can bring their stories to life and make them more relatable to readers. Here are several reasons why dialogue is essential for creating realism and authenticity:

  • Mimicking real-life speech: Dialogue aims to replicate the way people actually talk. By using realistic dialogue, writers can capture the intricacies of everyday language, including slang, colloquialisms, pauses, and interruptions. This authenticity helps readers immerse themselves in the story.
  • Reflecting different voices: Different characters have unique voices and ways of speaking. Through dialogue, writers can showcase these distinct voices, including variations in speech patterns, vocabulary choices, or accents. Dialogue allows readers to connect with characters on a deeper level by hearing their individual voices.
  • Portraying emotions: Dialogue allows characters to express their emotions in a more direct and immediate way. Readers can experience the characters’ joy, sadness, anger, or frustration through their spoken words and the accompanying subtext. This emotional depth adds a layer of realism to the narrative.
  • Providing context and details: Dialogue can provide important context and details about the setting, time period, or cultural references. By incorporating relevant conversations, writers can enrich the story with authentic cultural or historical elements, making the narrative more vibrant and realistic.

In conclusion, dialogue is a crucial element in creating realism and authenticity in narrative essays. It mimics real-life speech, reflects different voices, portrays emotions, and provides contextual details. By employing natural and believable dialogue, writers can transport readers into their stories and make the characters and settings feel genuine and relatable.

Conveying Emotions and Thoughts

One of the main purposes of dialogue in a narrative essay is to convey the emotions and thoughts of the characters. Through conversations, writers can delve into the inner workings of their characters’ minds, providing readers with a deeper understanding of their motivations, fears, and desires. Here are several reasons why dialogue is effective in conveying emotions and thoughts:

  • Expressing feelings directly: Dialogue allows characters to express their emotions and thoughts in a direct and immediate manner. By giving characters a voice, writers can convey joy, sadness, anger, confusion, and a range of other emotions more effectively.
  • Providing insight into internal struggles: Dialogue can reveal the characters’ internal conflicts and struggles. By letting them voice their thoughts and engage in introspective conversations, writers can explore the complexities of their characters’ minds, allowing readers to empathize and connect with them.
  • Offering subtext: Dialogue often includes subtext, which adds depth and layers to the characters’ words. Through subtle hints, unsaid desires, or hidden meanings, dialogue can convey emotions and thoughts beyond what is explicitly stated, adding complexity to the narrative.
  • Enhancing character development: By using dialogue to convey emotions and thoughts, writers can develop their characters more fully. Readers gain a deeper understanding of the characters’ personalities, motivations, and growth throughout the narrative, fostering a stronger emotional connection.

In conclusion, dialogue serves the purpose of conveying emotions and thoughts in a narrative essay. It allows for an authentic and direct expression of feelings, offers insight into internal struggles, provides subtext, and enhances character development. By skillfully utilizing dialogue, writers can bring their characters to life and create a more immersive and emotionally engaging reading experience.

Using Dialogue as a Literary Device

Dialogue serves a dual purpose in narrative essays – not only does it drive the plot and convey information, but it also functions as a literary device, adding depth and complexity to the storytelling. Here are several ways in which dialogue can be used as a literary device in narrative essays:

  • Revealing character traits: Through dialogue, writers can reveal the unique qualities of their characters. By carefully crafting their words and interactions, writers can show aspects such as personalities, values, and beliefs, providing readers with a deeper understanding of the characters.
  • Creating tension and conflict: Dialogue can be used to create tension and conflict between characters, heightening the dramatic effect of the narrative. By employing sharp exchanges, disagreements, or verbal sparring, writers can generate a sense of anticipation and suspense, keeping readers engaged.
  • Establishing voice and style: Dialogue allows writers to establish their own voice and style. Each character can have a distinctive way of speaking, reflecting their personality or social background. This adds authenticity to the story and helps readers differentiate between characters.
  • Enhancing symbolism and subtext: Dialogue can be imbued with symbolism and subtext, adding layers of meaning to the narrative. Characters may engage in metaphorical or poetic conversations that convey deeper messages or explore themes in a nuanced manner.

In conclusion, dialogue serves as a multifaceted literary device in narrative essays. It reveals character traits, creates tension and conflict, establishes voice and style, and enhances symbolism and subtext. By utilizing dialogue in these ways, writers can elevate their storytelling, making the narrative more compelling, thought-provoking, and memorable for readers.

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How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

how to write dialogue in an essay

Knowing how to insert source materials into an essay is a central theme of academic writing. Sources can be cited to support your argument, expand it or even to be used to dissect a counter-argument and examine its validity.

This skill is so essential the rules of using quotation marks of when quoting texts are pounded into the student’s head. So much so you know when to quote a textual source and the reason to do so.

One of the areas many students struggle with is when or how they should use dialogue in an essay. A high number of essay writers don’t even know the difference between dialogue and quotes, let alone the correct punctuation surrounding it. The main reason it happens is because a large number of academic subjects focus solely on claim-based essays where dialogue is not used. This article will look at why dialogue can be so effective within a narrative essay and why. The topics discussed will be:

What is dialogue?

When do you use dialogue?

Why use dialogue?

How to write dialogue?

And Where you can find more information on this subject.

Dialogue: A definition

Dialogue is defined as a literary technique that writers use to depict a conversation between two or more people. Dialogue is a device that is employed in all kinds of fiction – movie, plays, books and can even be used in essays. It's important not to confuse dialogue with quotations from an outside source. Dialogue is largely made up to create a more visual, dramatic effect. Whereas direct quotes can be verified through citations.

Quotation marks are used with quoting from source as well as to mark dialogue in an essay but the conventions around the two change. As such, it is important to know the difference between the two.

Here is a small table that documents the main differences.

One of the biggest mistakes an essay writer makes is when they use dialogue as a direct quote. This mistake occurs as we are trained to use speech as direct quotes in claim-based essays. As we are trained to do this in the majority of our subjects, we don't know that we can use crafted narration and create dialogue in narrative essays to give them more weight. Due to this, we do not understand the conventions around its use or why to use it.

Dialogue: When to Use it.

Dialogue is a big part of the movies, television, novels, and plays. It is important to keep in mind that when it comes to essay writing, a dialogue only really appears in one type of essay – the narrative essay.

A narrative essay differs from most kinds of essay writing. Other types of essays often aim to make a claim about something. If we look at an argumentative essay , for example, it makes a claim that one point of view is right. And an expository essay will make claims about how a model or idea works. A narrative essay doesn't make claims like this. It is an essay that is used to relate stories and experience to the reader, and as such, it is much more story like in nature. These experiences include conversations the writer has had with other people.

Presenting conversations you had with friends as dialogue in an argumentative essay or expository piece wouldn’t do much to strengthen your argument and would undermine your creditability. It is better to use direct quotes from the source – even if it is spoken material. Direct quotes will be seen as the conventional norm as these types of essay expect the writer to be objective and scientific in their discussion.

Dialogue: Why do you use dialogue

Narrative essays use dialogue as a device – much like written fiction. They add depth, tension and character development to nonfiction writing. It also helps move the story along. As it is reported speech, you would be unlikely to remember all the details; so, you will have to recreate them from memory – remember to use the words, tones, and emotions that report it in the correct flavor. Readers will trust realistic dialogue that captures the situation.

Dialogue: How to format

This section will demonstrate the correct formatting conventions to use when inserting your dialogue into a narrative essay. This section will look at the correct usage of the quotation marks, and where to put other punctuation marks. This will be looking at the U.S rules of grammar – the formations and convention in other variants of English might differ.

Quotations Marks

There are three main rules that surround the usage of quotation marks:

Double quotation marks are used to signify that a person is using speech.

Example: - When I was young, my father warned me, “Look in both direction before you cross the road.”

Single quotation marks are used to mark quotes in quotes.

Example: - “I remember read Oscar Wilde’s quote ‘I can resist everything except temptation’ and feeling so inspired,” the creative writer coach said.

When dialogue extends across several paragraphs, use quotation marks at the start of each paragraph, but only use the closing quotation make when the speech ends.

Example: - Rupert nodded and said, "Yeah I think you're correct. If we lay the carpet before painting the ceiling, we'll need dust sheets.

But if we do the ceiling before laying the new carpet it should be fine.”

If the quote is at the end of a sentence, always put the full stop inside the quotation marks.

Incorrect: - The bus driver said, “This is your stop”.

Correct: - The bus driver said, “This is your stop.”

Question marks and exclamation should be placed inside the quotation mark if they apply to the person's speech.

Incorrect: - The boy screamed, “Watched out the ceiling is falling”!

Correct: - The boy screamed, “Watched out the ceiling is falling!”

When the quote is simply embedded in a larger sentence that is a question or exclamation the punctuation should be placed outside the speech marks.

Incorrect : -How did you feel when the newscaster said, “JFK had been shot?”

Correct: - How did you feel when the newscaster said, “JFK had been shot”?

If a speech tags fall before the quote use a comma before the quotation marks to separate them.

Incorrect: - My brother said “I’m telling mom that you stole the cookies from the jar.”

Correct: - My brother said, “I’m telling mom that you stole the cookies from the jar.”

If the speech tag comes after the quotation marks, then the coma should be placed in the speech marks

Incorrect: - “Just be back in time for tea” My mum warned me before I went to play.

Correct: - “Just be back in time for tea,” My mum warned me before I went to play.

When a sentence is interrupted with a speech tag, a comma should be placed after the first segment of speech and at the end of the speech tag.

Incorrect: - “No” Karen said wrinkling her nose in disgust “That’s just all kinds of wrong.”

Correct: - “No,” Karen said wrinkling her nose in disgust, “That’s just all kinds of wrong.”

It is important to learn how to use quotation marks and punctuation correctly. These rules act as a convention between reader and writer, and as such, using them will make your work easier to read and understand. Without following these rules, your dialogue might be confusing and messy to the reader, which means it will not convey the message you want it to.

Dialogue: Where to find more resources

Here is a collection of some great links that will aid you in crafting the perfect narrative essay , and making sure you get your dialogue quotation spot on. You’ll be writing an amazing narrative essay in no time at all.

How To Write A Thematic Essay

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how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

Literacy Ideas

Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

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Narratives build on and encourage the development of the fundamentals of writing. They also require developing an additional skill set: the ability to tell a good yarn, and storytelling is as old as humanity.

We see and hear stories everywhere and daily, from having good gossip on the doorstep with a neighbor in the morning to the dramas that fill our screens in the evening.

Good narrative writing skills are hard-won by students even though it is an area of writing that most enjoy due to the creativity and freedom it offers.

Here we will explore some of the main elements of a good story: plot, setting, characters, conflict, climax, and resolution . And we will look too at how best we can help our students understand these elements, both in isolation and how they mesh together as a whole.

Visual Writing


What is a narrative?

A narrative is a story that shares a sequence of events , characters, and themes. It expresses experiences, ideas, and perspectives that should aspire to engage and inspire an audience.

A narrative can spark emotion, encourage reflection, and convey meaning when done well.

Narratives are a popular genre for students and teachers as they allow the writer to share their imagination, creativity, skill, and understanding of nearly all elements of writing.  We occasionally refer to a narrative as ‘creative writing’ or story writing.

The purpose of a narrative is simple, to tell the audience a story.  It can be written to motivate, educate, or entertain and can be fact or fiction.


narrative writing | narrative writing unit 1 2 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

Teach your students to become skilled story writers with this HUGE   NARRATIVE & CREATIVE STORY WRITING UNIT . Offering a  COMPLETE SOLUTION  to teaching students how to craft  CREATIVE CHARACTERS, SUPERB SETTINGS, and PERFECT PLOTS .

Over 192 PAGES of materials, including:


There are many narrative writing genres and sub-genres such as these.

We have a complete guide to writing a personal narrative that differs from the traditional story-based narrative covered in this guide. It includes personal narrative writing prompts, resources, and examples and can be found here.

narrative writing | how to write quest narratives | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

As we can see, narratives are an open-ended form of writing that allows you to showcase creativity in many directions. However, all narratives share a common set of features and structure known as “Story Elements”, which are briefly covered in this guide.

Don’t overlook the importance of understanding story elements and the value this adds to you as a writer who can dissect and create grand narratives. We also have an in-depth guide to understanding story elements here .


Narrative structure.

ORIENTATION (BEGINNING) Set the scene by introducing your characters, setting and time of the story. Establish your who, when and where in this part of your narrative

COMPLICATION AND EVENTS (MIDDLE) In this section activities and events involving your main characters are expanded upon. These events are written in a cohesive and fluent sequence.

RESOLUTION (ENDING) Your complication is resolved in this section. It does not have to be a happy outcome, however.

EXTRAS: Whilst orientation, complication and resolution are the agreed norms for a narrative, there are numerous examples of popular texts that did not explicitly follow this path exactly.


LANGUAGE: Use descriptive and figurative language to paint images inside your audience’s minds as they read.

PERSPECTIVE Narratives can be written from any perspective but are most commonly written in first or third person.

DIALOGUE Narratives frequently switch from narrator to first-person dialogue. Always use speech marks when writing dialogue.

TENSE If you change tense, make it perfectly clear to your audience what is happening. Flashbacks might work well in your mind but make sure they translate to your audience.


narrative writing | structuring a narrative | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

This graphic is known as a plot map, and nearly all narratives fit this structure in one way or another, whether romance novels, science fiction or otherwise.

It is a simple tool that helps you understand and organise a story’s events. Think of it as a roadmap that outlines the journey of your characters and the events that unfold. It outlines the different stops along the way, such as the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, that help you to see how the story builds and develops.

Using a plot map, you can see how each event fits into the larger picture and how the different parts of the story work together to create meaning. It’s a great way to visualize and analyze a story.

Be sure to refer to a plot map when planning a story, as it has all the essential elements of a great story.


This video we created provides an excellent overview of these elements and demonstrates them in action in stories we all know and love.

Story Elements for kids


How to write a Narrative

Now that we understand the story elements and how they come together to form stories, it’s time to start planning and writing your narrative.

In many cases, the template and guide below will provide enough details on how to craft a great story. However, if you still need assistance with the fundamentals of writing, such as sentence structure, paragraphs and using correct grammar, we have some excellent guides on those here.

USE YOUR WRITING TIME EFFECTIVELY: Maximize your narrative writing sessions by spending approximately 20 per cent of your time planning and preparing.  This ensures greater productivity during your writing time and keeps you focused and on task.

Use tools such as graphic organizers to logically sequence your narrative if you are not a confident story writer.  If you are working with reluctant writers, try using narrative writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing.

Spend most of your writing hour on the task at hand, don’t get too side-tracked editing during this time and leave some time for editing. When editing a  narrative, examine it for these three elements.

  • Spelling and grammar ( Is it readable?)
  • Story structure and continuity ( Does it make sense, and does it flow? )
  • Character and plot analysis. (Are your characters engaging? Does your problem/resolution work? )


narrative writing | aa156ee009d91a57894348652da98b58 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

The story’s setting often answers two of the central questions in the story, namely, the where and the when. The answers to these two crucial questions will often be informed by the type of story the student is writing.

The story’s setting can be chosen to quickly orient the reader to the type of story they are reading. For example, a fictional narrative writing piece such as a horror story will often begin with a description of a haunted house on a hill or an abandoned asylum in the middle of the woods. If we start our story on a rocket ship hurtling through the cosmos on its space voyage to the Alpha Centauri star system, we can be reasonably sure that the story we are embarking on is a work of science fiction.

Such conventions are well-worn clichés true, but they can be helpful starting points for our novice novelists to make a start.

Having students choose an appropriate setting for the type of story they wish to write is an excellent exercise for our younger students. It leads naturally onto the next stage of story writing, which is creating suitable characters to populate this fictional world they have created. However, older or more advanced students may wish to play with the expectations of appropriate settings for their story. They may wish to do this for comic effect or in the interest of creating a more original story. For example, opening a story with a children’s birthday party does not usually set up the expectation of a horror story. Indeed, it may even lure the reader into a happy reverie as they remember their own happy birthday parties. This leaves them more vulnerable to the surprise element of the shocking action that lies ahead.

Once the students have chosen a setting for their story, they need to start writing. Little can be more terrifying to English students than the blank page and its bare whiteness stretching before them on the table like a merciless desert they must cross. Give them the kick-start they need by offering support through word banks or writing prompts. If the class is all writing a story based on the same theme, you may wish to compile a common word bank on the whiteboard as a prewriting activity. Write the central theme or genre in the middle of the board. Have students suggest words or phrases related to the theme and list them on the board.

You may wish to provide students with a copy of various writing prompts to get them started. While this may mean that many students’ stories will have the same beginning, they will most likely arrive at dramatically different endings via dramatically different routes.

narrative writing | story elements | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

A bargain is at the centre of the relationship between the writer and the reader. That bargain is that the reader promises to suspend their disbelief as long as the writer creates a consistent and convincing fictional reality. Creating a believable world for the fictional characters to inhabit requires the student to draw on convincing details. The best way of doing this is through writing that appeals to the senses. Have your student reflect deeply on the world that they are creating. What does it look like? Sound like? What does the food taste like there? How does it feel like to walk those imaginary streets, and what aromas beguile the nose as the main character winds their way through that conjured market?

Also, Consider the when; or the time period. Is it a future world where things are cleaner and more antiseptic? Or is it an overcrowded 16th-century London with human waste stinking up the streets? If students can create a multi-sensory installation in the reader’s mind, then they have done this part of their job well.

Popular Settings from Children’s Literature and Storytelling

  • Fairytale Kingdom
  • Magical Forest
  • Village/town
  • Underwater world
  • Space/Alien planet


Now that your student has created a believable world, it is time to populate it with believable characters.

In short stories, these worlds mustn’t be overpopulated beyond what the student’s skill level can manage. Short stories usually only require one main character and a few secondary ones. Think of the short story more as a small-scale dramatic production in an intimate local theater than a Hollywood blockbuster on a grand scale. Too many characters will only confuse and become unwieldy with a canvas this size. Keep it simple!

Creating believable characters is often one of the most challenging aspects of narrative writing for students. Fortunately, we can do a few things to help students here. Sometimes it is helpful for students to model their characters on actual people they know. This can make things a little less daunting and taxing on the imagination. However, whether or not this is the case, writing brief background bios or descriptions of characters’ physical personality characteristics can be a beneficial prewriting activity. Students should give some in-depth consideration to the details of who their character is: How do they walk? What do they look like? Do they have any distinguishing features? A crooked nose? A limp? Bad breath? Small details such as these bring life and, therefore, believability to characters. Students can even cut pictures from magazines to put a face to their character and allow their imaginations to fill in the rest of the details.

Younger students will often dictate to the reader the nature of their characters. To improve their writing craft, students must know when to switch from story-telling mode to story-showing mode. This is particularly true when it comes to character. Encourage students to reveal their character’s personality through what they do rather than merely by lecturing the reader on the faults and virtues of the character’s personality. It might be a small relayed detail in the way they walk that reveals a core characteristic. For example, a character who walks with their head hanging low and shoulders hunched while avoiding eye contact has been revealed to be timid without the word once being mentioned. This is a much more artistic and well-crafted way of doing things and is less irritating for the reader. A character who sits down at the family dinner table immediately snatches up his fork and starts stuffing roast potatoes into his mouth before anyone else has even managed to sit down has revealed a tendency towards greed or gluttony.

Understanding Character Traits

Again, there is room here for some fun and profitable prewriting activities. Give students a list of character traits and have them describe a character doing something that reveals that trait without ever employing the word itself.

It is also essential to avoid adjective stuffing here. When looking at students’ early drafts, adjective stuffing is often apparent. To train the student out of this habit, choose an adjective and have the student rewrite the sentence to express this adjective through action rather than telling.

When writing a story, it is vital to consider the character’s traits and how they will impact the story’s events. For example, a character with a strong trait of determination may be more likely to overcome obstacles and persevere. In contrast, a character with a tendency towards laziness may struggle to achieve their goals. In short, character traits add realism, depth, and meaning to a story, making it more engaging and memorable for the reader.

Popular Character Traits in Children’s Stories

  • Determination
  • Imagination
  • Perseverance
  • Responsibility

We have an in-depth guide to creating great characters here , but most students should be fine to move on to planning their conflict and resolution.


narrative writing | 2 RoadBlock | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

This is often the area apprentice writers have the most difficulty with. Students must understand that without a problem or conflict, there is no story. The problem is the driving force of the action. Usually, in a short story, the problem will center around what the primary character wants to happen or, indeed, wants not to happen. It is the hurdle that must be overcome. It is in the struggle to overcome this hurdle that events happen.

Often when a student understands the need for a problem in a story, their completed work will still not be successful. This is because, often in life, problems remain unsolved. Hurdles are not always successfully overcome. Students pick up on this.

We often discuss problems with friends that will never be satisfactorily resolved one way or the other, and we accept this as a part of life. This is not usually the case with writing a story. Whether a character successfully overcomes his or her problem or is decidedly crushed in the process of trying is not as important as the fact that it will finally be resolved one way or the other.

A good practical exercise for students to get to grips with this is to provide copies of stories and have them identify the central problem or conflict in each through discussion. Familiar fables or fairy tales such as Three Little Pigs, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Cinderella, etc., are great for this.

While it is true that stories often have more than one problem or that the hero or heroine is unsuccessful in their first attempt to solve a central problem, for beginning students and intermediate students, it is best to focus on a single problem, especially given the scope of story writing at this level. Over time students will develop their abilities to handle more complex plots and write accordingly.

Popular Conflicts found in Children’s Storytelling.

  • Good vs evil
  • Individual vs society
  • Nature vs nurture
  • Self vs others
  • Man vs self
  • Man vs nature
  • Man vs technology
  • Individual vs fate
  • Self vs destiny

Conflict is the heart and soul of any good story. It’s what makes a story compelling and drives the plot forward. Without conflict, there is no story. Every great story has a struggle or a problem that needs to be solved, and that’s where conflict comes in. Conflict is what makes a story exciting and keeps the reader engaged. It creates tension and suspense and makes the reader care about the outcome.

Like in real life, conflict in a story is an opportunity for a character’s growth and transformation. It’s a chance for them to learn and evolve, making a story great. So next time stories are written in the classroom, remember that conflict is an essential ingredient, and without it, your story will lack the energy, excitement, and meaning that makes it truly memorable.


narrative writing | tension 1068x660 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

The climax of the story is the dramatic high point of the action. It is also when the struggles kicked off by the problem come to a head. The climax will ultimately decide whether the story will have a happy or tragic ending. In the climax, two opposing forces duke things out until the bitter (or sweet!) end. One force ultimately emerges triumphant. As the action builds throughout the story, suspense increases as the reader wonders which of these forces will win out. The climax is the release of this suspense.

Much of the success of the climax depends on how well the other elements of the story have been achieved. If the student has created a well-drawn and believable character that the reader can identify with and feel for, then the climax will be more powerful.

The nature of the problem is also essential as it determines what’s at stake in the climax. The problem must matter dearly to the main character if it matters at all to the reader.

Have students engage in discussions about their favorite movies and books. Have them think about the storyline and decide the most exciting parts. What was at stake at these moments? What happened in your body as you read or watched? Did you breathe faster? Or grip the cushion hard? Did your heart rate increase, or did you start to sweat? This is what a good climax does and what our students should strive to do in their stories.

The climax puts it all on the line and rolls the dice. Let the chips fall where the writer may…

Popular Climax themes in Children’s Stories

  • A battle between good and evil
  • The character’s bravery saves the day
  • Character faces their fears and overcomes them
  • The character solves a mystery or puzzle.
  • The character stands up for what is right.
  • Character reaches their goal or dream.
  • The character learns a valuable lesson.
  • The character makes a selfless sacrifice.
  • The character makes a difficult decision.
  • The character reunites with loved ones or finds true friendship.


After the climactic action, a few questions will often remain unresolved for the reader, even if all the conflict has been resolved. The resolution is where those lingering questions will be answered. The resolution in a short story may only be a brief paragraph or two. But, in most cases, it will still be necessary to include an ending immediately after the climax can feel too abrupt and leave the reader feeling unfulfilled.

An easy way to explain resolution to students struggling to grasp the concept is to point to the traditional resolution of fairy tales, the “And they all lived happily ever after” ending. This weather forecast for the future allows the reader to take their leave. Have the student consider the emotions they want to leave the reader with when crafting their resolution.

While the action is usually complete by the end of the climax, it is in the resolution that if there is a twist to be found, it will appear – think of movies such as The Usual Suspects. Pulling this off convincingly usually requires considerable skill from a student writer. Still, it may well form a challenging extension exercise for those more gifted storytellers among your students.

Popular Resolutions in Children’s Stories

  • Our hero achieves their goal
  • The character learns a valuable lesson
  • A character finds happiness or inner peace.
  • The character reunites with loved ones.
  • Character restores balance to the world.
  • The character discovers their true identity.
  • Character changes for the better.
  • The character gains wisdom or understanding.
  • Character makes amends with others.
  • The character learns to appreciate what they have.

Once students have completed their story, they can edit for grammar, vocabulary choice, spelling, etc., but not before!

As mentioned, there is a craft to storytelling, as well as an art. When accurate grammar, perfect spelling, and immaculate sentence structures are pushed at the outset, they can cause storytelling paralysis. For this reason, it is essential that when we encourage the students to write a story, we give them license to make mechanical mistakes in their use of language that they can work on and fix later.

Good narrative writing is a very complex skill to develop and will take the student years to become competent. It challenges not only the student’s technical abilities with language but also her creative faculties. Writing frames, word banks, mind maps, and visual prompts can all give valuable support as students develop the wide-ranging and challenging skills required to produce a successful narrative writing piece. But, at the end of it all, as with any craft, practice and more practice is at the heart of the matter.


  • Start your story with a clear purpose: If you can determine the theme or message you want to convey in your narrative before starting it will make the writing process so much simpler.
  • Choose a compelling storyline and sell it through great characters, setting and plot: Consider a unique or interesting story that captures the reader’s attention, then build the world and characters around it.
  • Develop vivid characters that are not all the same: Make your characters relatable and memorable by giving them distinct personalities and traits you can draw upon in the plot.
  • Use descriptive language to hook your audience into your story: Use sensory language to paint vivid images and sequences in the reader’s mind.
  • Show, don’t tell your audience: Use actions, thoughts, and dialogue to reveal character motivations and emotions through storytelling.
  • Create a vivid setting that is clear to your audience before getting too far into the plot: Describe the time and place of your story to immerse the reader fully.
  • Build tension: Refer to the story map earlier in this article and use conflict, obstacles, and suspense to keep the audience engaged and invested in your narrative.
  • Use figurative language such as metaphors, similes, and other literary devices to add depth and meaning to your narrative.
  • Edit, revise, and refine: Take the time to refine and polish your writing for clarity and impact.
  • Stay true to your voice: Maintain your unique perspective and style in your writing to make it your own.


Below are a collection of student writing samples of narratives.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to read these creative stories in detail and the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the critical elements of narratives to consider before writing.

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of story writing.

We recommend reading the example either a year above or below, as well as the grade you are currently working with, to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.

narrative writing | Narrative writing example year 3 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |


When students have a great journal prompt, it can help them focus on the task at hand, so be sure to view our vast collection of visual writing prompts for various text types here or use some of these.

  • On a recent European trip, you find your travel group booked into the stunning and mysterious Castle Frankenfurter for a single night…  As night falls, the massive castle of over one hundred rooms seems to creak and groan as a series of unexplained events begin to make you wonder who or what else is spending the evening with you. Write a narrative that tells the story of your evening.
  • You are a famous adventurer who has discovered new lands; keep a travel log over a period of time in which you encounter new and exciting adventures and challenges to overcome.  Ensure your travel journal tells a story and has a definite introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • You create an incredible piece of technology that has the capacity to change the world.  As you sit back and marvel at your innovation and the endless possibilities ahead of you, it becomes apparent there are a few problems you didn’t really consider. You might not even be able to control them.  Write a narrative in which you ride the highs and lows of your world-changing creation with a clear introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • As the final door shuts on the Megamall, you realise you have done it…  You and your best friend have managed to sneak into the largest shopping centre in town and have the entire place to yourselves until 7 am tomorrow.  There is literally everything and anything a child would dream of entertaining themselves for the next 12 hours.  What amazing adventures await you?  What might go wrong?  And how will you get out of there scot-free?
  • A stranger walks into town…  Whilst appearing similar to almost all those around you, you get a sense that this person is from another time, space or dimension… Are they friends or foes?  What makes you sense something very strange is going on?   Suddenly they stand up and walk toward you with purpose extending their hand… It’s almost as if they were reading your mind.


narrative writing | Copy of Copy of Copy of HOW TO WRITE POEMS | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

When teaching narrative writing, it is essential that you have a range of tools, strategies and resources at your disposal to ensure you get the most out of your writing time.  You can find some examples below, which are free and paid premium resources you can use instantly without any preparation.

FREE Narrative Graphic Organizer

narrative writing | NarrativeGraphicOrganizer | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |


narrative writing | story tellers bundle 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

A MASSIVE COLLECTION of resources for narratives and story writing in the classroom covering all elements of crafting amazing stories. MONTHS WORTH OF WRITING LESSONS AND RESOURCES, including:


writing checklists

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (92 Reviews)


narrative writing | Narrative2BWriting2BStrategies2Bfor2Bjuniors2B28129 | Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies |

Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies

narrative writing | narrative writing lessons | 7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love |

7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love

narrative writing | Top narrative writing skills for students | Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students |

Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students

narrative writing | how to write a scary horror story | How to Write a Scary Story |

How to Write a Scary Story

How to Add Dialogs in Your Narrative Essays?

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

Your tutor told that you need to write a top-quality  narrative essay with a dialog , right? Though this form of academic writing is easier than any other one, some students failed this task. Why does it happen? What do they do wrong? In sober fact, it doesn’t matter what characters are in the center of your story and what particular event you want to describe. There are some other rules, any author doing this task need to adhere to.

Narrative essays are meant to describe this or that event, story, situation, etc. You have more chances to get the best grade if you are free to choose the topic yourself. However, some professors assign topics themselves. In this case, students should process the literature in order to cover it in the right way. Keep in mind that you aren’t allowed to plagiarize. Otherwise, your grade will be lower.

The overriding purpose of this review is to provide you with  insightful tips  on how to add dialogs in a narrative essay. We’ll examine the main role of a dialog in an essay and provide you with the samples of some dialogs. Mayhap, this information will help you create a top-notch narrative essay.

Types of Dialogs to Use in Narrative Essays

Firstly, we should clarify the basics. What is a dialog? It is a simple conversation between the main characters of your narrative essay. Sometimes, it is necessary to add them into the description of this or that event in order to make your narrative essay more effective. As a result, your paper will be more personal and easier to read.

Regarding the format, there are two important  types of quotes :

  • Direct. Their primary aim is to support an argument of a person in your narrative.
  • Indirect quotes are just a part of a written story. Besides, they add a creative touch to your narrative essay.

Keep in mind that this form of academic writing is intended to share the details of this or that story. You either share your personal experience or your point of view regarding different topics. That’s why your words help your readers imagine the situation. When reading your narrative essay, this person should imagine as if they witnessed it themselves.  Dialogs can help  you achieve that effect!

How to Add Dialogs in Your Narrative Essay?

Any writer  dealing with narrative essays  must adhere to some rules. We mean the use of quotation marks. We created two samples allowing you to understand what quotation marks to use:

  • Incorrect version: Julia said, she doesn’t know the climax of this story. Besides, it was really hard to understand the main plot.
  • Correct version: Sam said, “I don’t like the city. It is too dirty and too noisy.”

Sometimes, you need to use longer dialogs. Keep in mind that if a dialog in your narrative essay is longer than one paragraph, your quotation marks must be added at the beginning of each paragraph. Check out the samples:

  • Incorrect version. John said, “ I couldn’t even imagine that the drone can help in search and rescue operations to find her, but it did!

Thanks to the aerial vehicle, she survived.”

  • Correct version. Emilie said, “My life is not so interesting as it was before. I have no idea what to do. “

“Thanks God, you came back.”

Using these simple rules, you’ll add a personal touch to your narrative essay. Besides, all of your arguments will seem to be stronger than they are!

How to Start a Narrative Essay: Engaging Techniques for a Strong Opening

By: Author Paul Jenkins

Posted on May 27, 2024

Categories Education , Writing

Crafting the beginning of a narrative essay sets the stage for the story you’re about to tell.

It requires choosing an engaging topic, which can be personal, fictional, or even autobiographical, and embedding a tone that captures and holds your reader’s attention.

An impactful introduction plays the crucial role of providing a glimpse into the setting, characters, and the overarching theme without giving away the entire plot.

A Blank Page With A Pencil Resting On Top, Surrounded By Scattered Brainstorming Notes And A Focused Expression

Establishing the right narrative structure is fundamental, as a clear sequence of events maintains reader interest and drives the essay forward.

Incorporating dialogue and various literary devices enhances the vividness of a narrative essay, allowing characters to come to life.

Writing a narrative essay is about telling a story that is compelling, coherent, and leaves a lasting impression on its audience.

Key Takeaways

  • The introduction of a narrative essay must captivate and set the premise for the story.
  • Effective storytelling in essays involves clarity, engagement, and a thorough narrative structure.
  • Revision and proofreading are essential processes in ensuring a polished final essay.


When embarking on the crafting of a narrative essay , the introduction serves as the pivotal gateway for the reader .

It is the part of the essay where a writer has the opportunity to seize the reader’s attention and set the tone for the narrative that unfolds.

This section should encompass the beginning of the story arc while introducing the central theme in a manner that is both engaging and informative.

To captivate the reader , employ a hook —an intriguing opening line or an evocative question.

This hook could take the form of a striking statement, a vivid description, or a compelling anecdote. The goal is to pique curiosity and encourage further reading.

Structure of the Introduction:

  • Example : Start with a dialogue or a pivotal moment.
  • Example : Introduce the main characters and setting briefly.
  • Example : Foreshadow the core conflict or challenge.

The introduction should not only hook but also smoothly transition to the middle of the essay where the main events take place.

It must ensure a coherent flow towards the eventual end of the narrative, completing the story arc in a satisfying manner.

The art of beginning a narrative essay lies in striking a balance— capturing attention and laying the groundwork for the story to come.

The author is the architect of this delicate opening, designing it to be both alluring and informative, setting the stage for the narrative adventure.

Selecting a Topic and Setting the Tone

Before starting a narrative essay, one must select a topic that resonates with their personal experiences and decide upon the tone that will carry the narrative forward. These aspects set the foundation for a compelling essay.

Brainstorming Ideas

Brainstorming is a critical step for unlocking creative themes and potential essay topics .

Using methods such as mind maps or lists can help one to visually organize their thoughts and find connections between them.

Writers should consider prompts that inspire them and reflect on personal experiences for authentic and engaging stories.

  • List past experiences related to the essay’s purpose
  • Utilize prompt guidelines to steer the brainstorming process
  • Develop a mind map to explore different angles of a potential topic

Deciding on the Narrative’s Tone

The tone of a narrative essay shapes the reader’s perception and can vary from humorous to solemn. It should align with the theme and the writer’s intent.

When a writer has selected a topic , they must consider the emotional atmosphere they wish to create.

They ought to ask themselves what response they want to evoke in the reader.

Crafting a Compelling Opening

The beginning of a narrative essay sets the trajectory for the reader’s journey. It’s crucial to engage your audience with a powerful hook and a vivid setting.

Using a Hook

A narrative essay benefits from a hook that grabs the reader’s attention from the first sentence.

This could be a provocative question , a surprising fact , or an intriguing quote from a character.

For instance, opening with a rhetorical question invites the reader to ponder and engage directly with the essay’s theme.

Alternatively, a shocking statement can create immediate intrigue or conflict that compels the reader to continue.

  • Question : “Have you ever wondered where fear comes from?”
  • Quote : She whispered, “Dreams have a way of making a heart speak.”
  • Shocking Statement : They never told him that the price of his dreams would be his nightmares.

Setting the Scene

Establishing the scene is about more than just describing a location. It involves introducing the characters, the ambiance, and the time frame, which provides context and grounds the narrative.

Utilizing a first-person perspective can create intimacy, which can be a powerful way to immerse readers in the essay’s universe.

Detailed descriptions enable the audience to visualize the setting and form a connection with the characters.

Developing the Narrative Structure

When creating a narrative essay, it’s crucial to construct a clear and coherent narrative structure . This ensures that the plot unfolds in a deliberate manner, maintains the reader’s interest through controlled pace and suspense, and delivers a satisfying resolution.

Outlining the Plot

An effective narrative essay begins with a detailed outline .

This provides a framework to organize events in a logical sequence while addressing essential elements of the narrative such as conflict , climax , and resolution .

The plot should be outlined as follows:

  • Exposition : Introduce characters, setting, and background.
  • Rising Action : Develop the conflict or challenges that propel the story.
  • Climax : Bring the story to a turning point with the highest level of tension.
  • Falling Action : Resolve the tensions and lead toward the closure.
  • Resolution : Provide a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Carefully planning these elements enables the writer to maintain chronological order or apply a non-linear storytelling technique effectively.

Establishing Pace and Building Suspense

Manipulating the pace of a narrative essay is key to building suspense . Key strategies include:

  • Vary sentence length : Short, sharp sentences can accelerate pace, while longer ones can slow it down.
  • Timing of revelations : Disclose information at strategic points to keep readers intrigued.
  • Use of details : Descriptive details can create an atmosphere that heightens anticipation or foreboding.

By considering how each event impacts the tension of the narrative, writers can deftly control pace to emphasize the suspense leading up to the climax .

The writer’s goal should be to guide the reader through a roller coaster of emotions, culminating in a memorable impact.

Describing Characters and Setting

To captivate readers from the start, a narrative essay needs to paint a picture of its characters and setting in vivid detail. This section will cover how to craft characters that feel alive and create a setting that immerses readers in your story’s world.

Crafting Vivid Characters

Character creation begins with descriptive language that outlines key traits and qualities.

First, consider their physical appearance, incorporating details like hair color, posture, and clothing, which can imply personality without stating it directly.

For example, a character with scruffy clothes and untamed hair might suggest a carefree or rugged lifestyle.

It’s also essential to include dialogue that reflects their unique voice, which can reveal their education level, background, and temperament.

Writers often use first-person or third-person perspectives to provide insight into thoughts and motivations, enriching the reader’s understanding of characters’ complexities.

Utilize personal anecdotes and figurative language , such as similes or subtle metaphors, to create memorable impressions of characters.

Creating an Immersive Setting

An immersive setting draws readers into the world where the narrative unfolds.

Begin by pinpointing the time period and location , whether it’s a modern city or a historical backdrop.

Use descriptive language to highlight sensory details like sounds, smells, and textures.

For instance, describing an urban setting might include the cacophony of city traffic and the aroma of street food .

Integrate vivid details that evoke the atmosphere, perhaps contrasting the warmth of a soft blanket against the chill of a dimly lit room.

Employing figurative language aids in connecting readers emotionally to the space, whether it’s through a simile describing the oppressive heat of a room as “like being wrapped in a thick blanket” or a metaphor likening the forest’s silence to a deserted cathedral.

Incorporating dialogue can also reveal the setting, such as characters commenting on their environment or reacting to changes around them.

Conveying the Theme and Message

When composing a narrative essay, the theme should serve as the compass guiding every paragraph. An effective theme is both universal and personal, resonating with the reader while offering insight into the writer’s unique perspective. It is essentially the main idea or moral of the story.

Message in narrative essays translates the writer’s personal statement and central argument into the fabric of the narrative.

As one constructs the narrative, it’s crucial to interweave the message subtly yet consistently to keep the reader engaged and impart the intended lesson.

To effectively communicate the message and theme, an author can employ various literary devices with symbolism being particularly potent. For example:

  • A character’s journey may represent life’s challenges.
  • Objects can hold significant meaning, enlightening the reader about the narrative’s deeper layers.

Literature is ripe with examples where authors seamlessly blend theme and message, making both an inseparable part of the reader’s experience. Writers should aspire to this balance, ensuring that neither overwhelms the other, but instead, they complement each other to enhance the story.

Writers should consider the following points:

  • Identify the core: What is the heart of the story?
  • Consistency is key: The theme should be evident throughout the narrative.
  • Subtlety in delivery: Overstating the theme can be jarring.

Writing Body Paragraphs

When constructing the body paragraphs of a narrative essay, the writer must focus on advancing the story while ensuring emotional resonance and factual accuracy.

The narrative should unfold from one paragraph to the next with a clear purpose in support of the central theme.

Building the Narrative

The body paragraphs serve as the building blocks of the narrative essay. They should each contribute a unique scene or idea, while still connecting smoothly to form a cohesive story.

A reliable technique is to provide compelling facts and details that breathe life into the narrative.

This can be achieved by implementing a first-person point of view that adds personal depth, making the narrative more immersive.

For example, if the paragraph describes an event, the writer should include sensory details:

  • Sight : “As the sunrise painted the sky in hues of gold and pink…”
  • Sound : “The rustling leaves whispered secrets of the forest…”

Creating Emotional Impact

Emotion is the heartbeat of a narrative essay, and body paragraphs should evoke feelings that are fitting for the story’s events.

The writer’s choice of words and the rhythm of sentences can significantly influence the reader’s emotional experience.

For instance, short, abrupt sentences can create tension or surprise, while longer, flowing sentences may establish a serene or nostalgic mood.

A sentence like “She watched the last train leave, a heavyweight of loss settling on her shoulders,” can encapsulate a profound emotional moment within a paragraph.

Incorporating Dialogue and Literary Devices

In narrative essays, dialogue serves as a powerful tool to enhance storytelling. Not only does it develop characters and move the plot, but it also grants readers access to the characters’ thoughts and emotions.

Effective dialogue should mirror authentic speech yet remain concise and purposeful.

Literary devices deepen the reader’s experience. For instance, metaphors create vivid imagery by making indirect comparisons, which enrich the narrative and offer deeper insights.

A metaphor, such as “life is a journey,” symbolizes the comparison without using “like” or “as,” as one would with a simile.

A descriptive essay utilizes a variety of literary devices.

One such device, the anecdote , grounds the reader in a specific moment, often used at the beginning of the essay to hook the reader’s interest. An anecdote might describe a brief, impactful moment that sets the stage for the main narrative.

Additionally, comparisons —such as analogies and similes—help to clarify and relate experiences to the reader, often leading to a better understanding and connection with the essay’s themes.

Fostering Engagement and Empathy

When starting a narrative essay, the writer’s goal is to engage the audience by creating an emotional connection. To achieve this, they should consider integrating elements of empathy that resonate with readers.

  • Personal Stories : These are powerful tools. A relatable personal story can immediately draw readers in, making them invested in the outcomes and challenges faced by the characters.
  • Hardships and Resilience : Describing obstacles and the character’s resilience encourages readers to empathize. They should see the struggles as part of a shared human experience.

Writers can cultivate empathy by allowing their audience to walk in the shoes of the protagonist. This connection is deepened when they:

  • Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of the character’s situation.
  • Share inner thoughts and emotions to showcase the character’s humanity and vulnerability.

Finally, it is crucial to maintain a neutral and clear voice. Over-dramatization can alienate readers, while a well-crafted narrative stirs genuine emotion.

Concluding the Narrative Essay

In completing a narrative essay, one must ensure that the conclusion reaffirms the essay’s core theme and leaves the reader with a sense of resolution and reflection.

Bringing Closure to the Story

A successful conclusion serves as the final piece of the narrative puzzle. It should not introduce new information but instead, connect back to the essay’s main message or theme.

This can be achieved with:

  • Summarization of Key Points : Briefly recap the primary events to remind the reader of the journey.
  • Reiteration of the Theme : Clearly express how the events reinforce the central theme of the narrative.

When one wraps up their story, clarity and consistency with the established narrative are crucial to avoid confusing their audience.

Reflecting on the Journey

The conclusion is where one can offer reflection, illuminating how the narrative journey has influenced characters or the writer themselves.

Reflection should focus on:

Growth or Change :

  • Discuss how characters have evolved or what lessons they may have learned.
  • Illustrate the success or transformation to underscore the narrative’s impact.

Personal or Broader Implications :

  • Share insights on how the story’s events extend beyond the narrative to resonate with a larger truth or societal message.

Revising and Proofreading

Revising and proofreading are critical final steps in the essay writing process. They fine-tune one’s writing skills and ensure that the narrative essay conveys its message effectively and clearly.

Revising involves evaluating the overall structure, content, and flow of the essay.

Writers should check if the story is complete, engaging, and makes a point.

They should consider the following aspects:

  • Organization : Does the essay follow a logical order?
  • Clarity : Are the ideas clear and well-explained?
  • Consistency : Are the characters and settings consistent throughout?

Proofreading is the last step and focuses on correcting grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.

It’s essential to carefully comb through every line to catch and rectify mistakes that could detract from the essay’s professionalism.

Tips for effective proofreading:

  • Take a break after revising to approach the essay with fresh eyes.
  • Read aloud to identify awkward phrasing or errors that might be missed when reading silently.
  • Use digital tools, but still do a manual check, as tools may not catch everything.

Incorporating feedback from peers can be invaluable for both revising and proofreading.

Fresh perspectives can help identify areas for improvement that the writer might overlook.

Revising and proofreading should not be rushed.

They require time and attention to detail to elevate the quality of the narrative essay.

Remember, these steps may seem demanding, but they are crucial in refining writing skills and producing a polished, publishable narrative essay.

Differences from Other Essay Types

When writing an essay, it’s important to understand how the goal and structure differ among various types. A narrative essay’s primary purpose is to tell a story, in contrast to other types which aim to describe, argue, or explain.

Narrative vs. Descriptive Essays

Narrative Essays :

  • Purpose : To tell a chronological story with a clear point.
  • Structure : Includes characters, a setting, a climax, and a resolution.

Descriptive Essays :

  • Purpose : To create a vivid image of a person, place, thing, or event.
  • Structure : Focuses on sensory details without necessarily following a chronological order.

In narrative essays, the chronological flow is central, while descriptive essays do not require a story’s progression but rather elaborate on details to paint a picture.

Narrative vs. Argumentative Essays

  • Focus : Shares a personal experience or story.
  • Perspective : Can be subjective, offering a personal viewpoint.

Argumentative Essays :

  • Focus : Presents a position on an issue with supporting arguments.
  • Evidence : Utilizes facts, data, and logical reasoning to persuade.

Unlike narrative essays, argumentative essays advance a thesis through well-substantiated arguments, aiming to convince the reader of a particular stance.

Narrative vs. Expository Essays

  • Approach : Utilizes storytelling elements to convey a narrative.
  • Connection : Engages emotions and personal connections.

Expository Essays :

  • Approach : Provides information or explains a topic in a structured manner.
  • Connection : Focused on delivering facts and logical explanations.

Expository essays are informational and rely less on an emotional connection with the audience, as opposed to the more personal and emotionally driven narratives.

Adhering to Essay Requirements

When a student begins a narrative essay, understanding and following the specific requirements is crucial. Whether for high school assignments or college essays , including those for the Common App , the format and guidelines are the foundation for a well-structured essay.

High School Requirements:

  • Narrative essays typically adhere to a standard five-paragraph format , consisting of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • The emphasis is usually on creative writing and storytelling.

College Essay Considerations:

  • College applications may have more specific prompts and a focus on personal reflection.
  • Colleges often require adherence to style guides such as APA, MLA, or Chicago.

Common App Instructions:

  • Essays should recount a student’s personal experiences, detailing how they have grown or overcome obstacles.
  • The narrative must fit within the stated word count, typically 250-650 words.

Formatting Tips:

  • Use clear, legible fonts like Times New Roman or Arial, sized to 12 pt.
  • Double-space text to improve readability.

Students should always review the essay prompt thoroughly and consider any provided rubrics or examples, which outline the expected criteria for the narrative.

One should never underestimate the importance of editing and proofreading; even minor formatting errors can detract from the content’s impact.

Tips for First-Time Writers

When first-time writers approach a narrative essay, they should focus on cultivating a habit that encourages writing exercises to strengthen their creative muscles .

  • Begin with Brainstorming : Allocate time to ponder different life experiences, which can be employed as the backbone of a narrative essay. These reflections assist in finding a meaningful topic.
  • Outline Your Story : Constructing an outline helps in organizing thoughts methodically. It serves as a roadmap and ensures the narrative includes a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Persistence is Key : Novice writers must remember that perseverance in the face of challenges is crucial.

  • Seek Feedback : Whether from peers or an instructor , constructive criticism can be invaluable. They offer fresh perspectives that can enhance the essay’s clarity and impact.
  • Read and Analyze : Studying well-crafted narrative essays can serve as a great educational tool. One can learn a lot about pacing, character development, and dialogue.

Incorporating these tips, first-time writers can navigate the nuances of a narrative essay more effectively, creating engaging and clear stories imbued with personal flair and authenticity.

Advanced Techniques in Narrative Essays

In the crafting of narrative essays, writers can employ a repertoire of advanced techniques to enhance the storytelling experience.

One of the key elements is the strategic use of literary devices .

Metaphors, similes, and personification add depth to the narrative, allowing readers to connect on a more emotional level.

Writers may also integrate dialogue, carefully punctuated with action, to bring characters to life.

An effective narrative essay outline includes a climax , the pinnacle of tension or conflict upon which the story turns.

Building up to this zenith with escalating events not only hooks the reader but also paves the way for a satisfying resolution.

In the realm of details , specificity is crucial.

Rather than broad brushstrokes, successful narratives zoom in on the small, peculiarities that render scenes vivid.

The smell of rain on pavement, the stutter in a character’s speech, and the particular shade of twilight are the types of details that create authenticity.

Leveraging Personal Challenges

Leveraging personal challenges in a narrative essay can powerfully showcase resilience and personal growth. A writer may choose to share insights on how they’ve navigated through a difficult time, providing a rich backdrop for a compelling story.

Selecting the Right Challenge: It is crucial to pick a personal hurdle that has significantly impacted one’s life.

This could be a setback , failure , injury , or a difficult situation where a passion was put to the test.

The chosen challenge should serve as a catalyst for growth or change, revealing the individual’s capacity to adapt and persevere.

  • Setbacks can demonstrate tenacity.
  • Failures offer a path to introspection and improvement.
  • Injuries might highlight physical and mental recovery and determination.
  • A stifled passion can illustrate the process of overcoming barriers to pursue a dream.

Incorporating the Challenge: When writing about personal challenges, the essay should start with a clear depiction of the issue.

He or she should employ vivid descriptions that paint a picture of the circumstances surrounding the challenge. This creates empathy and allows the reader to understand the gravity of the situation.

For example:

  • The exact moment an injury occurred during a pivotal game.
  • The intense emotions felt after a significant failure or setback .

Transition to Overcoming: The narrative should smoothly transition from the challenge itself to the actions taken to overcome it.

This includes the steps the individual took, the resources they capitalized on, and the support systems they leaned on. Throughout this journey, the internal transformation should become evident.

Reflection on Growth: Finally, reflecting on how the challenge was pivotal in shaping one’s character is essential.

It should illustrate what was learned, how the individual changed, and how they have since applied that knowledge or strength in other areas of life. This reflection conveys the resilience and adaptability that personal challenges can foster.

Incorporating Historical Narratives

Incorporating historical narratives into a narrative essay enriches the content, offering readers a bridge to the past through vivid storytelling.

To effectively integrate historical narratives, an essay writer must follow several key steps:

Choose Relevant History : Select a historical period or event that aligns with the essay’s theme. It should enhance the story, not detract from the narrative’s primary focus.

Research Thoroughly : Gather accurate details from reliable sources, such as historical archives, to lend authenticity to the narrative.

Create a Connection : Clearly draw lines between the historical context and the personal story. Explain the chosen history’s impact on the events or the individual experience being described.

Balance Story and Fact : Ensure the historical narrative does not overshadow the personal narrative. Use historical elements to support the story rather than overwhelm it.

Depict with Sensitivity : When handling delicate historical subjects, one must approach them with sensitivity and respect for the people and cultures involved.


Short Narrative Essay

Short narrative essay generator.

how to add dialogue into an narrative essay

Everyone finds it interesting to tell stories about their lives or about someone else’s. Through those stories, we can get lessons which we can apply in our daily lives. This is what a narrative essay is all about. Let’s go back to your experiences when you were still in grade school. Your teacher would often ask you to write about your favorite experiences especially during Christmas season and summer vacation.

Some people would mistakenly identify a narrative essay as equally the same as a descriptive essay . They are totally different from each other, yet both of them are forms of academic writing . Look into this article to learn more about narrative essays.

What is Short Narrative Essay?

A short narrative essay is a brief piece of writing that tells a story, usually focusing on a particular experience, event, or moment. It follows a narrative structure, involving characters, a setting, a plot, and a conclusion, aiming to engage the reader through vivid descriptions and storytelling techniques within a concise format.

Best Short Narrative Essay Examples?

Title: The Summer Adventure

The scorching sun bore down on the dusty road as we embarked on our summer adventure. Packed into the old, battered car, my family and I set off for the great outdoors. The air hummed with anticipation, echoing our excitement for the unknown.

As we traversed winding roads, the landscape unfolded like a painting. Rolling hills adorned with emerald-green trees greeted us, promising the allure of exploration. The scent of pine wafted through the open windows, mingling with laughter and the crackling excitement of adventure.

Our destination? A secluded lakeside campsite embraced by nature’s serenity. The promise of tranquil waters and starlit nights ignited our spirits. Upon arrival, we pitched our weathered tent, a ritual signaling the beginning of our escape from routine.

Days melted into each other, filled with hikes through dense forests, dips in cool, crystal-clear waters, and evenings spent around crackling campfires. We discovered hidden trails, stumbled upon secret meadows, and marveled at nature’s splendid orchestra of sounds and colors.

But amidst the beauty lay unexpected challenges. Unforgiving storms threatened our haven, testing our resilience. Yet, huddled together, we found solace in each other’s company, discovering strength in unity.

As the final sun dipped behind the horizon, casting its golden glow upon the rippling waters, a bittersweet sensation enveloped us. The adventure had drawn to a close, leaving behind cherished memories etched in our hearts.

Reluctantly, we packed our belongings, bidding farewell to the tranquil haven that had nurtured us. With weary but contented hearts, we embarked on the journey back, carrying not just souvenirs but a treasure trove of shared experiences and the promise of future escapades.

The car rolled away from the lakeside, but the echoes of laughter, the scent of pine, and the warmth of togetherness lingered, reminding us of the magical summer adventure that had woven us closer together.

11+ Short Narrative Essay Examples

1. short narrative essay examples.

Short Narrative Essay

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2. Narrative Essay Examples

Narrative Essay

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3. Short Narrative Essay Template

Short Narrative Essay Template

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4. Short Narrative Essay

Short Narrative Essay

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5. Short Narrative Essay Format

Short Narrative Essay Format

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6. The Storm Short Narrative Essay

The Storm Short Narrative Essay

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7. Five-Paragraph Short Narrative Essay

Five-Paragraph Short Narrative Essay

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8. Short Narrative Writing Essay

Short Narrative Writing Essay

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9. College Short Narrative Essay

College Short Narrative Essay

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10. High School Short Narrative Essay Examples

High School Short Narrative Essay Examples

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11. College Short Narrative Essay Examples

College Short Narrative Essay Examples

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12. Personal Short Narrative Essay Examples

Personal Narrative Short Narrative Essay Examples

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What is a Narrative Essay?

A narrative essay is a type of academic writing that allows you to narrate about your experiences. This follows a certain outline just like what we have observed in argumentative essays , informative essays and more. The outline consists of the introduction, body paragraph and conclusion.

This is a type of essay that tells a story either from the point of view of the author or from the personal experience of the author. It should also be able to incorporate characteristics such as the ability to make and support a claim, develop specific viewpoint, put conflicts and dialogue in the story, and to use correct information.  You may also see personal narrative essay examples & samples

The purpose of a narrative essay is to be able to tell stories may it be real or fictional. To enable us to write a perfect narrative essay, the author should include the necessary components used for telling good stories, a good climax, setting, plot and ending.

How To Write a Narrative Essay?

Compared to all types of academic essay , the narrative essay is the simplest one. It is simply written like the author is just writing a very simple short story. A typical essay has only a minimum of four to five paragraphs contain in the three basic parts: introduction, body paragraph and conclusion. A narrative essay has five elements namely the characters, plot, conflict, setting and theme.

Plot – this tells what happened in the story or simply the sequence of events. There are five types of plot: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. The exposition is the an information that tells about background of the story. It can be about the character, the setting, events, etc. Rising action  is where the suspense of a story begins. It helps build toward the climax of a story. Climax  is the most intense part of the story.  Falling action  happens after the climax when it is already almost the end of the story.  Resolution is the part where the problem has already been resolved.

Characters – it is the person or other being that is a part of the narrative performs an action or speak a dialogue .

Conflict – this is the struggle or the problem that is faced by the characters of the story. This can be an external conflict and an internal conflict. An external conflict is a type of problem that is experienced in the external world. An internal conflict is the type of conflict that refers to the characters’ emotions and argument within itself.

Setting – this is knowing where and when the story takes place. This can be a powerful element because it makes the readers feel like they are the characters in the story.

Theme – this is what the author is trying to convey. Examples of a theme are romance, death, revenge, friendship, etc. It is the universal concept that allows you to understand the whole idea of the story.

How to write a short narrative essay?

  • Select a Theme or Experience: Choose a specific event, moment, or experience that you want to narrate.
  • Outline the Story: Plan the narrative by outlining the key elements – characters, setting, plot, and a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • Engaging Introduction: Start with a hook to captivate readers’ attention, introducing the setting or characters involved.
  • Develop the Plot: Write body paragraphs that progress the story logically, describing events, actions, and emotions, using vivid details and sensory language to immerse readers.
  • Character Development: Focus on character traits, emotions, and reactions to make the story relatable and engaging.
  • Climax and Resolution: Build tension towards a climax, followed by a resolution or lesson learned from the experience.
  • Concise Conclusion: Conclude the essay by summarizing the experience or reflecting on its significance, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.
  • Revise and Edit: Review the essay for coherence, clarity, grammar, and punctuation, ensuring it flows smoothly.

What are the 3 parts of a narrative essay?

  • Introduction: Sets the stage by introducing the story’s characters, setting, and providing a glimpse of the main event or experience. It often includes a hook to capture the reader’s attention.
  • Body: Unfolds the narrative, presenting the sequence of events, actions, emotions, and details that drive the story forward. It develops the plot, characters, and setting.
  • Conclusion: Summarizes the narrative, reflecting on the significance of the experience or event, and often delivers a lesson learned or leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

How do you start a narrative essay with examples?

  • ” ‘Are we there yet?’ echoed in my ears as our family car trudged along the endless highway, marking the beginning of our unforgettable summer road trip.”
  • “The sun dipped low on the horizon, casting a warm, golden hue over the serene lake. It was there, amidst the tranquil waters, that my adventure began.”
  • “The deafening roar of applause faded as I stepped onto the stage, my heart racing with anticipation. Little did I know, that moment would change everything.”
  • “Looking back, it all started with a single decision. That decision, made in a moment of uncertainty, led to a series of events that transformed my life.”
  • “The scent of freshly baked cookies wafted through the air, mingling with the joyous laughter of children. It was a typical afternoon, until an unexpected visitor knocked on our door.”

How do you start a narrative introduction?

You may start by making the characters have their conversation or by describing the setting of the story. You may also give background information to the readers if you want.

What makes a good narrative?

A good narrative makes the readers entertained and engage in a way that they will feel like they are becoming a part of the narrative itself. They should also be organized and should possess a good sequence of events.

How many paragraphs are there in personal narratives?

Usually, there are about five paragraphs.

How many paragraphs are in a short narrative essay?

A short narrative essay typically comprises an introductory paragraph introducing the story, three to four body paragraphs unfolding the narrative, and a concluding paragraph summarizing the experience.

How long is a short narrative essay?

A short narrative essay typically ranges from 500 to 1500 words, aiming to convey a concise and focused story or experience within a limited word count.

Narrative essays are designed to express and tell experiences making it an interesting story to share. It has the three basic parts and contains at least five elements. If you plan to create a good narrative essay, be sure to follow and assess if your narrative has all the characteristics needed to make it sound nice and pleasing.


Text prompt

  • Instructive
  • Professional

Write a Short Narrative Essay on a memorable moment with your family.

Create a Short Narrative Essay about a lesson learned from a mistake.


  1. Demonstration for how to format dialogue in a narrative essay

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  1. How to Write Dialogue in a Narrative Paragraph

    For American English, periods and commas always go inside your quotation marks, and commas are used to separate your dialogue tag from the actual dialogue when it comes at the beginning of a sentence or in the middle. Here are a few examples: Nancy said, "Let's go to the park today since the weather is so beautiful.".

  2. LibGuides: Writing A Narrative Essay: Using Dialogue

    Using Dialogue. Dialogue. Dialogue is an exchange of conversation between two or more people or characters in a story. As a literary style, dialogue helps to advance the plot, reveal a character's thoughts or emotions, or shows the character's reaction within the story. Dialogue gives life to the story and supports the story's atmosphere.

  3. Writing Dialogue [20 Best Examples + Formatting Guide]

    Here are a few tips: Strong Dialogue Tags: Sometimes, you need to be more specific than just "he said" or "she said". Example: "Don't be ridiculous," scoffed Sarah. Action Beats: Break up chunks of dialogue with actions that show who's speaking. Example: Tom slammed his fist on the table. "I won't stand for this!".

  4. How to Write a Dialogue in an Essay: The Ultimate Guide

    Dialogue in an essay can be implemented when writing fiction or nonfiction narrative work. As an example, working with (or citing) movies, plays, books or reports, its usage may even become obligatory for greater effect. However, one should not mistake dialogue with academic research necessity to directly quote from journals, books or any other ...

  5. How to Format Dialogue in Your Novel or Short Story

    How to Format Dialogue in Your Novel or Short Story. Whether you're working on a novel or short story, writing dialogue can be a challenge. If you're concerned about how to punctuate dialogue or how to format your quotation marks, fear not; the rules of dialogue in fiction and nonfiction can be mastered by following a few simple rules ...

  6. How to Write Dialogue: Rules, Examples, and 8 Tips for ...

    Keep only the ones that contribute something to the story. 6. Vary word choices and rhythms. The greatest dialogue examples in writing use distinctive character voices; each character sounds a little bit different, because they have their own personality.

  7. How to Write a Narrative Essay

    When applying for college, you might be asked to write a narrative essay that expresses something about your personal qualities. For example, this application prompt from Common App requires you to respond with a narrative essay. College application prompt. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.

  8. How to Write Natural Dialogue for Narratives

    Listen and take notes. Carry a small notebook with you and write down phrases, words, or whole conversations verbatim to help develop your ear. Read. Reading will hone your creative abilities. It will help familiarize you with the form and flow of narration and dialogue until it becomes more natural in your own writing.

  9. How to Write Fabulous Dialogue [9 Tips + Examples]

    These beats are a commonly used technique so you can find plenty of examples — here's one from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro . 4. Use 'said' as a dialogue tag. If there's one golden rule in writing dialogue, it's this: 'said' is your friend. Yes, 'said' is nothing new.

  10. How to Write Dialogue: 7 Great Tips for Writers (With Examples)

    Tip #1: Create Character Voices. Dialogue is a great way to reveal your characters. What your characters say, and how they say it, can tell us so much about what kind of people they are. Some characters are witty and gregarious. Others are timid and unobtrusive. Speech patterns vary drastically from person to person.

  11. How to Write Dialogue: Formatting, Examples, & Tips

    Format & Punctuation. Examples. Tips for Dialogue. Say the dialogue out loud. Cut small talk when writing dialogue. Keep your dialogue brief and impactful. Give each character a unique voice. Add world-appropriate slang. Be consistent with the characters' voices.

  12. A Complete Narrative Essay Guide

    Purpose: Reach the peak of the story, the moment of highest tension or significance. Elements: Turning Point: Highlight the most crucial moment or realization in the narrative. Example: "As the sun dipped below the horizon and hope seemed lost, a distant sound caught our attention—the rescue team's helicopters.".

  13. PDF Direct and Indirect Dialogue

    perspective—a new voice—to add credibility to the author's writing. Genres that use indirect dialogue often include arguments, historical writing, medical documents, and business reports, but many genres can use either—or both—forms of dialogue. Here is an example of indirect dialogue from the same news article:

  14. How To Write Dialogue In A Story (With Examples)

    Internal vs External Dialogue. Direct vs Indirect Dialogue. 20 Tips For Formatting Dialogue in Stories. How to Write Dialogue in 5 Steps. Step 1: Use a Dialogue Outline. Step 2: Write down a script. Step 3: Edit & review your script. Step 4: Sprinkle in some narrative. Step 5: Format your dialogue.

  15. How to Properly Format Dialogue (With Examples)

    Keep dialogue tags behind quotation marks. A dialogue tag is (1) words framing direct speech to convey the context and emotions of a conversation. For example, in ("I can't believe this is you," she replied.), the dialogue tag is "she replied.". Use an ellipsis or em-dashes for pauses or interruptions.

  16. How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

    Ms. Jackson asked. Rule 3: If a person in your essay has more than a paragraph of dialogue, use the opening quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph, but use closing quotation marks only at the end of the dialogue. Example: Sarah nodded and said, "I think you're right.

  17. How to Write Internal Dialogue: Dialogue Formatting Guidelines

    Here are examples of internal dialogue written in the first-person POV: 1. Italicized, with tag: Jasper kept screaming about how the aliens were after him. I sighed. This is not science fiction, old man, I thought. This is real life. 2. Italicized, without tag: Jasper kept screaming about how the aliens were after him. I sighed.

  18. What is the Purpose of Dialogue in a Narrative Essay

    This helps to sustain the reader's interest and keeps them engaged throughout the narrative. In conclusion, dialogue serves a crucial purpose in narrative essays. It breathes life into characters, advances the plot, and creates tension and drama. By incorporating dialogue effectively, writers can enhance the overall quality of their narrative ...

  19. Use dialogue in narrative writing

    Use dialogue in narrative writingIn this lesson, you will learn how to bring your narrative reading response to life by adding dialogue to show the response ...

  20. FORMATTING DIALOGUE Center for Writing and Speaking

    Dialogue is a crucial aspect of nearly every narrative. Dialogue makes the story dynamic, enlivens the characters, and moves the action along unobtrusively. However, the guidelines governing how to arrange and punctuate dialogue can be confusing. This handout demystifies the technical aspects of writing dialogue. Using the Symbols

  21. What Is a Narrative Essay? Learn How to Write A Narrative Essay With

    - Narrative essays are often part of the coursework in high school and during college admissions. Not every form of essay writing involves meticulous research. One form in particular—the narrative essay—combines personal storytelling with academic argument. Narrative essay authors illustrate universal lessons in their unique experiences of ...

  22. How to Write Dialogue in an Essay

    Punctuation Here are the basic rules that regarding the placement of punctuation when using dialogue. If the quote is at the end of a sentence, always put the full stop inside the quotation marks. Incorrect: - The bus driver said, "This is your stop". Correct: - The bus driver said, "This is your stop.".

  23. What Is Narrative Writing: Exploring the Basics of Storytelling

    Narrative writing is a vibrant form of storytelling that encompasses both fiction and nonfiction texts. At its core, it's about conveying a series of events, with characters, a setting, conflict, and resolution, woven together to deliver a compelling and engaging story. The purpose of narrative writing goes beyond entertainment; it's a ...

  24. Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

    NARRATIVE FEATURES. LANGUAGE: Use descriptive and figurative language to paint images inside your audience's minds as they read. PERSPECTIVE Narratives can be written from any perspective but are most commonly written in first or third person.. DIALOGUE Narratives frequently switch from narrator to first-person dialogue. Always use speech marks when writing dialogue.

  25. Narrative Essay with a Dialog: Expert Tips on Writing

    It is a simple conversation between the main characters of your narrative essay. Sometimes, it is necessary to add them into the description of this or that event in order to make your narrative essay more effective. As a result, your paper will be more personal and easier to read. Regarding the format, there are two important types of quotes ...

  26. How to Start a Narrative Essay: Engaging Techniques for a Strong

    Writers should consider prompts that inspire them and reflect on personal experiences for authentic and engaging stories. List past experiences related to the essay's purpose. Utilize prompt guidelines to steer the brainstorming process. Develop a mind map to explore different angles of a potential topic.

  27. Short Narrative Essay

    A short narrative essay typically ranges from 500 to 1500 words, aiming to convey a concise and focused story or experience within a limited word count. Narrative essays are designed to express and tell experiences making it an interesting story to share. It has the three basic parts and contains at least five elements.