Compositional Risk: Creating Interesting Dialogue
Use in: Narratives (some risk) and Essays (major risk)
Risk: Dialogue needs to be punctuated correctly; it also needs to add to the story, not just be there for being there's sake.
(or click here to get a "crash course" in proper dialogue formatting)
(or click here to get detailed information about how to format dialogue)
Dialogue should have a purpose - it should inform the reader about what's going on by having the characters discussing events happening in the story, as most normal human beings would when they're in an unusual situation.
Use dialogue to move the story forward - don't just say "Hi!"
You can create an interesting beginning to your story by starting in the middle of some dialogue. Have your characters slowly provide details to the audience that allows the audience to figure out what's going on in the beginning of the story.
Instead of telling the reader, "This story takes place in a middle school in New Jersey," you can have two characters have a conversation that includes that information. It will make the story more interesting for the reader, and it involves your characters in the exposition.
Try to keep your dialogue natural. Write down what people say in the way they say it. Don't have a three year old talking like a college professor - use appropriate word choice and sentence lengths.
In trying to keep dialogue natural, you should think about using dialects if appropriate. However, don't bury the reader in phonetic spellings and weird phrases - it is very easy for a writer to over-do it when it comes to dialect! Be selective.
Using dialogue in an essay is doubly risky; in addition to being dialogue (a risk in itself), it is also a shift in rhetorical mode. However, that also means that if you pull it off, your essay will be much more interesting to read.
One way you might use dialogue in an essay is by re-creating a conversation you had with someone about the topic. This conversation could be an actual word-for-word quotation, or it could be more of a hypothetical conversation.