Dialogue In Flash Fiction: How To Make Every Word Count

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An image of two characters facing each other in a cramped, dimly lit space

You’re a writer with a passion for flash fiction – the art of storytelling in a few hundred words or less. You know that every word counts in this genre, and that includes dialogue. In flash fiction, dialogue plays a crucial role in revealing character, advancing the plot, and creating tension and conflict.

But how can you make every word count in your dialogue? In this article, we’ll explore the role of dialogue in flash fiction and give you tips on how to make your dialogue impactful and efficient. Get ready to take your flash fiction to the next level with dialogue that packs a punch!

Dialogue is a powerful tool in flash fiction – it can reveal so much about your characters and their motivations in just a few words. But dialogue that isn’t carefully crafted can fall flat, taking away from the impact of your story.

In this article, you’ll learn how to use dialogue to reveal character, advance the plot, and create tension and conflict. With these tips, you’ll be able to create dialogue that is both economical and effective, allowing you to make every word count in your flash fiction.

So, let’s dive in and explore the power of dialogue in flash fiction!

Key Takeaways

  • Dialogue is crucial for revealing character, advancing plot, creating tension and conflict in flash fiction.
  • Subtext and nonverbal cues are important for revealing character emotions and motivations.
  • Each character should have a distinct way of speaking to add depth and nuance to the story.
  • Editing and revising dialogue is crucial to make every word count and ensure the chosen style fits the story and characters.

Understand the Role of Dialogue in Flash Fiction

You’ll need to grasp the significance of dialogue in flash fiction if you want to elevate your writing to the next level. Dialogue’s impact in flash fiction is immense – it not only reveals character traits, but it can also move the plot forward in just a few words.

When writing flash fiction, every word counts, and dialogue is no exception. To make the most of your dialogue, it must be natural and concise. Writing natural dialogue is crucial in flash fiction because it can be the difference between a story that falls flat and one that grabs the reader’s attention and leaves them wanting more.

Dialogue should flow seamlessly, without any unnecessary exposition or filler. Remember to keep it short and sweet – in flash fiction, there’s no room for long monologues or rambling conversations. By mastering the art of natural dialogue, you’ll be able to create characters that feel authentic and stories that pack a punch in just a few words.

crafting dialogue for characters in a story
Crafting dialogue for characters in a story

Use Dialogue to Reveal Character

When it comes to revealing characters in flash fiction, dialogue is a powerful tool. You can show their personality through the words they speak. To make your dialogue even more effective, consider using nonverbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. And don’t forget to create unique voices for each character, so that their personality shines through in every line they deliver.

Rather than simply telling the reader what a character is like, you can show their personality through the words they speak.

Show Don’t Tell

Don’t just tell the reader how a character feels, show them through their actions and expressions.

The best way to do this is by using subtext. Subtext is the underlying meaning or message in a conversation or scene that isn’t explicitly stated. By using subtext, you can reveal a character’s emotions and motivations without having to explicitly state them.

It’s all about finding the balance between exposition and subtext. You want to give the reader enough information to understand what’s going on, but not so much that it feels like you’re hitting them over the head with it.

For example, instead of saying “John was angry, “you could show his anger through his actions and dialogue. Maybe he clenches his fists, his face turns red, and he snaps at the other character. Or maybe he says something that’s seemingly innocuous, but the subtext reveals his anger.

By using subtext, you’re making every word count and creating a more engaging reading experience for your audience.

Use Nonverbal Cues

Notice how small gestures and expressions can convey so much more than words ever could, adding depth and nuance to your characters and their emotions.

Incorporating body language and facial expressions can help bring your characters to life and make your flash fiction more impactful. For example, instead of telling your readers that a character is nervous, you can show it through their fidgeting or biting their lip.

Or, instead of having your character state their feelings outright, you can convey it through their facial expressions or the way they hold themselves. These nonverbal cues can add layers of meaning to your dialogue and create a more immersive reading experience for your audience.

So don’t be afraid to use them, and see how they can transform your flash fiction.

creating characters and their emotions by using nonverbal cues
Creating characters and their emotions by using nonverbal cues

Create Unique Voices

Immerse yourself in the world of your characters and let their unique voices sing like a chorus of birds, adding depth and texture to your story. Developing personality and distinguishing characters through dialogue is an essential aspect of flash fiction.

Each character should have a distinct way of speaking, and their tone and word choices should reflect their personality. To create unique voices, consider the following tips:

  • Pay attention to regional dialects or accents that may influence speech patterns.
  • Think about the character’s background and experiences, and how that may shape their way of speaking.
  • Use slang or colloquialisms that fit the character’s personality and background.
  • Vary the length and complexity of sentences to reflect different characters’ speaking styles.

Read your dialogue out loud to ensure that it sounds natural and authentic to the character.

By taking the time to develop distinct voices for your characters, you can create a more engaging and memorable story for your readers. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things with dialogue to make your characters truly come to life.

Use Dialogue to Advance the Plot

Using dialogue can be a powerful tool to drive the plot forward and keep readers engaged. It’s important to use dialogue in a way that not only reveals character, but also advances the storyline.

One way to do this is by using dialogue to establish setting. By having characters describe their surroundings or comment on the environment, the reader can get a better sense of where the scene is taking place. This can also help to create a mood or atmosphere that adds to the overall tone of the story.

Another way to use dialogue to advance the plot is by revealing backstory. Characters can use dialogue to share important information about their past or reveal secrets that the reader may not have known before. This can help to create tension and add depth to the characters.

However, it’s important to use dialogue in a way that feels natural and not forced. The information should be revealed in a way that makes sense for the character and their motivations.

By using dialogue effectively, writers can create a dynamic story that keeps readers engaged from start to finish.

Use Dialogue to Create Tension and Conflict

Don’t underestimate the power of a well-placed exchange to ignite conflict and keep readers on the edge of their seats. The secret to creating tension and conflict through dialogue is to create subtext.

Rather than having characters say exactly what they mean, use their words to hint at their true intentions or feelings. This subtext can create an undercurrent of tension that keeps the reader guessing about what will happen next.

Another effective technique for creating tension and conflict is to use interruptions. When one character interrupts another, it can create a sense of urgency and tension. It can also reveal power dynamics between characters as one tries to assert dominance over the other.

These interruptions can be physical, such as a character grabbing another’s arm, or verbal, such as cutting someone off mid-sentence. By using interruptions and subtext, you can create a dialogue that keeps readers engaged and eager to see how the conflict will resolve itself.

thinking about how to write a dialogue to create tension and conflict
Thinking about how to write a dialogue to create tension and conflict

Edit and Revise Your Dialogue

You’ve done it! You’ve created a scene full of tension and conflict through dialogue. But now, it’s time to refine and perfect your words. This is where editing and revising come in.

Dialogue can be tricky to get just right, but with some careful attention, you can make every word count. First, take a look at your dialogue tags. Are they necessary? Are they distracting? Dialogue tags such as “he said “or “she asked “can quickly become repetitive and take away from the actual dialogue. Consider using action beats or description instead to break up the dialogue and add some variety.

Additionally, pay attention to the pacing of your dialogue. If it’s too slow, it can lose the reader’s attention. If it’s too fast, it can be confusing. Finding the right balance is key.

Lastly, consider the style of your dialogue. Is it natural or stylized? Natural dialogue is how people actually talk, while stylized dialogue is more crafted and specific to the characters and the story. Both can be effective, but it’s important to choose the right style for your story.

To summarize, when editing and revising your dialogue, pay attention to your dialogue tags, pacing, and style. These elements can make all the difference in creating dynamic and impactful dialogue. So take your time, experiment, and find the perfect words to make your scene come alive.


You’re now equipped with the knowledge of how to make every word count in your dialogue for flash fiction. Dialogue isn’t just a tool for characters to communicate with each other; it’s a powerful way to reveal character, advance the plot, and create tension and conflict.

By carefully selecting each word, you can create a sense of suspense that’ll keep your readers engaged and invested in the story. Every line of dialogue should have a purpose and move the story forward. Remember to edit and revise your dialogue, ensuring that each word is necessary and impactful.

When done correctly, dialogue can be the driving force behind a successful flash fiction piece. So use it wisely, and make every word count.

Your readers will thank you for it.

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.