What’s the most difficult aspect of writing dialogue? Ask any ten writers and you’re bound to get a range of answers. But “getting started” is no doubt one of the most popular. So, we’re going to break down some dialogue prompts to kickstart your writing process! By the end, you’ll have options to choose where to start your next dialogue exchange.
Dialogue Writing Prompts
Breaking down dialogue prompts
Dialogue prompts aren’t the only thing that inspire writers to pick up pen and paper (or laptop) – great films inspire writers too. So, before we jump into our dialogue prompts, let’s watch a video that breaks down dialogue in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.
High stakes, structure, and anecdotes are three tools writers use to elevate dialogue. As you’re reading these general dialogue prompts, think about how you could respond with the aforementioned tools.
GENERAL DIALOGUE PROMPTS
- I told you not to touch that.
- How do you know?
- You can’t come back here again.
- I have never heard a bigger lie.
- Where did you find it?
- I’ve told you a dozen times and I’ll tell you again: it’s not possible!
- I’m tired of answering that question.
- Why didn’t they come?
- I’m sorry, I just don’t think this will work out.
- I never thought I’d see you again.
- We need to talk.
- I don’t know how to tell you this, but…
- I’m not sure if I can do this.
- I’m not sure what I’m doing with my life.
- I’m so sick of pretending like everything is okay.
- Why can’t things just be simple?
- Apologise. Right now.
- Let the game begin!
- Watch where you're going!
- Don’t move.
- I’m your biggest fan!
- There’s no point running.
- Hey. Look at me.
- Quick! Act surprised!
- Truth or dare.
- Right, I'm leaving now.
- Don't do that.
- Well, don't just stand there! Do something!
- So, that's what you are...
- Are you there?
Specific dialogue prompts take the pressure off of writers because they establish detail. Here are some specific dialogue prompts:
SPECIFIC DIALOGUE PROMPTS
- This is the greatest achievement in the history of science!
- Did you ask jeeves?
- I left my guitar back in San Antonio.
- Do you remember that night in Paris?
- I can’t believe you told them I stole Baby Jesus.
- I don’t care what you say: a pupusa is not a sandwich!
- The police said they never found the suspect.
- I’m in love with a sociopath!
- You seriously haven’t heard of the Iceman?
- This is the second time this week I’ve spilled coffee on my shirt.
- Your mother wants us to come down for Christmas.
- Do you know what today is?
- Why do you have that look on your face?
- You’ll never guess what Sarah told me last night.
- That was my favourite cup.
- Is there a problem here, gentlemen?
- What on earth happened in here?
- Ma’am, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. Please, sit down.
- Let’s hear your side of the story.
- So you're saying this all started in El Paso?
- Get in the car!
- Actually, I think this is the wrong way…
- Well, this is new.
- There’s blood everywhere.
- It’s taken me fifty years to get here. I’m sure as hell not giving up now!
- I’m sorry. That sounds awful.
- Did you get my note?
- Is that seriously your password?
- You gonna eat that?
- Hello, ma’am. We’re here about your son.
- The dog or me. Your choice.
- You won’t believe what happened to me today.
Dialogue Prompts List
Expanding on dialogue prompts
It’s one thing to list a bunch of dialogue prompts, it’s another to show you might respond to them. So, let’s do exactly that.
Here’s a response to a general prompt:
And here’s a response to a specific prompt:
Dialogue prompts are meant to inspire creativity. Who knows? Maybe my first exchange ends in a thrilling chase; my second exchange in a battle between schools. There are a million different ways these prompts can be interpreted.
Tips for answering dialogue prompts
Dialogue prompts are a ball of clay ready to be molded into a unique conversational exchange; here are some tips for how to respond to them:
1. It’s all about specificity
Specificity can turn everyday conversation into something unique. Don’t be afraid to add specific verbiage to impart stylistic flow.
2. Accept or refute
If a dialogue prompt asks a question, such as “did you do it?”, then you should either accept or refute. Consider answering along the lines of “Yes I did it – and here’s why:” or “No I didn’t. How could you ever think that?” Remember, we’re not able to infer irony, theme, or many other literary devices based off of a couple lines of dialogue.
3. The crazier the better
It’s easier to rein somebody in than it is to get them going. Don’t believe me? Ask any coach or teacher.
4. Answer with a question
It’s not typically a good strategy to answer dialogue with lots of questions – but it is a good strategy to get the ball rolling. Asking questions gets you thinking; which consequently gets your characters thinking as well.
Utilizing these strategies will open up new paths to dialogue.
Tips for Writing Better Dialogue
We went over a few tips for writing better dialogue – but there’s a lot more to dialogue writing than what we went over here. Want to learn more about writing dialogue? Check out our next article where we break down dialogue examples from Die Hard, There Will Be Blood, and more. By the end, you’ll have more strategies for writing dialogue than ever before.