What is Dialogue in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary Dialogues

Dialogue definition: Dialogue is a conversation between two or more characters in a literary work.

What is Dialogue?

Meaning of dialogue: The term dialogue means “two” (di-) “speak” (log). In this sense, two people are speaking to create dialogue.

Dialogue is a spoken conversation that includes at least two characters.


Example of Dialogue:

what is a dialogue“Are we there yet?” asked Mikey.

“No,” responded Mrs. Smith.

“How much longer?”

“At least another hour.”

Types of Dialogue

In literature, and elsewhere, there are a few different types of dialogue. Here are the two most common types.

What is Inner Dialogue?

Dialogue examples in literature Dialogue is a conversation between two or more characters. However, with inner dialogue, the characters in the conversation include one character and his mind.

Sometimes inner dialogue is said out loud (Everyone talks to himself once in a while!) and sometimes inner dialogue takes place in the mind.

Sometimes inner dialogue is punctuated in italics.

  • In first person narration:
    • I cannot believe I hurt my brother. Will he ever forgive me?
  • In third person narration:
    • “I cannot believe I hurt my brother. Will he ever forgive me?” wondered James.

What is Outer Dialogue?

Outer dialogue exists between two (or more) characters and is said “out loud.”

Outer dialogue punctuated with quotation marks. Each new speaker requires a new paragraph and indentation.

“Let’s go to the beach this afternoon!” suggested Kara.

“I’d rather go to the zoo,” responded Miguel.

“Let’s flip a coin to decide,” remarked Amanda.

“I call heads!” shouted Miguel.

The Function of Dialogue

dramatic dialogue Dialogue is essential for several reasons.

First, it creates characterization. In fact, it is one of the four main methods of characterization. The audience learns much about a character through his speech.

Second, dialogue advances the plot. Interactions within, between, or among characters help to give insight to the storyline.

Additionally, well-written dialogue makes a text realistic. In the real world, people interact and have conversations. This is critical to a successful text.

Examples of Dialogue in Literature

Dialogue literary definition Dialogue is one of the best ways for an author to develop a character and for the understand characterization.

Here is an example from the opening chapters of The Catcher in the Rye between Mr. Spencer and Holden Caulfield.

“What did Dr. Thurmer say to you, boy? I understand you had quite a little chat.

“Yes, we did. We really did. I was in his office for around two hours, I guess.”

“What’d he say to you?”

“Oh…well, about Life being a game and all. And how you should play it according to the rules. He was pretty nice about it. I mean he didn’t hit the ceiling or anything. He just kept talking about Life being a game and all. You know.”

“Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.”

“Yes, sir, I know it is. I know it.”

This is example is an introduction to Caulfield’s true character. Throughout the text, he lies and tries to manipulate adults. This example begins to develop the cunning side of Caulfield.


Define dialogue in literature: the definition of dialogue in literature is a conversation between two or more characters in a story, or between a character and himself.

To sum up, dialogue:

  • is an exchange of words between two or more characters
  • can be “inner” or “outer”
  • develops characterization

See also dialogue vs. dialog.