Story through Dialogue, Part 5: Tension

Building tension or conflict in a scene can be achieved through the use of dialogue. When characters have competing goals (when two characters both want something that only one can have or when the thing that one character wants will prevent the other from getting what they want) and they use dialogue to get what they want, the tension within a scene increases. They may or may not say exactly what it is that they want. In fact, the dialogue is more interesting if they don’t. Instead, the characters should say things that only suggest what they want—things that the characters might not be aware of but the reader is—in an attempt to persuade the other one another to do what each of them wants.

Activity: Setting the Scene with Dialogue as Tension

Instructions: For this exercise, you will write a scene that is made up only of dialogue. Think of a specific situation with two characters. Give the characters names and state what each character wants. Remember that dialogue really pops when the characters have opposing goals. Then create the dialogue the two characters will use to get what they want.

What is the situation?

What is the first character’s name?

What does he/she/it want?

What is the second character’s name?

What does he/she/it want?

Create the dialogue between your two characters:

Next Tuesday, we’ll move into writing dialogue for Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.

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