10 Ways to Introduce Conflict in Dialogue

Characters meet resistance through conflict with other characters. This does not mean they have to physically fight. Dialogue plays a big part in conflict. 

The narrative of a story defines the plot and description sets the scene. Dialogue shows us how characters react to events in their own words. It shows us what they’re willing to tell other characters and what they need to hide. Dialogue is an effective way to increase conflict, tension, and suspense in your book.

Here are 10 ways to introduce conflict in dialogue. Your characters can:

  1. Threaten
  2. Tease
  3. Argue
  4. Wheedle
  5. Cajole
  6. Insist
  7. Taunt
  8. Demand
  9. Interrupt
  10. Lie

Great dialogue allows a character to respond to the character causing conflict. It also allows a character to create conflict. Tension increases when a writer builds doubt and uncertainty with a character’s words. You should use dialogue to show who your characters really are.

Other ways to introduce conflict outside of dialogue include making a character:

  1. Wait
  2. Defend
  3. Lose 
  4. Search
  5. Flee
  6. Manipulate
  7. Avoid
  8. Seduce
  9. Chase
  10. Fight

Conflict in dialogue should be supported by these other conflicts. In fact, these conflicts will make your characters react, think, plan, and act. This will lead to dialogue between the characters. 

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9 responses
looking forward to future advice
Good article - dialogue for conflict, narrative for exposition. Never use dialogue to 'tell' a story. Another rule I follow is to use indirect dialog whenever possible, to create a subtext and nuance a character, unless direct dialog can ramp up the tension e.g. used in a situation where one would never hear direct dialog.
Thank you for the extra tips, Max.
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