It’s been said that actions speak louder than words. As nice of a notion that this is, it’s not entirely true. Sure, you can have a character speak only through actions, but just imagine what you can do with dialogue! You can have the character say one thing, but think another. Let’s say that Sussie and Betty are at the mall and Bettie comes out of the dressing room wearing a hideous fluorescent orange dress that looked like it was made out of hunting vests…however, Bettie is so completely fascinated and in love with the dress, Sussie doesn’t have the heart to tell her how awful it is. So, when Betty asks, “Isn’t this the coolest dress you’ve ever seen?” Sussie just replies with, “It’s really bright–just like your personality.”
You can even show a character’s personality through the way he talks. Let’s say that Michael is really into cooking. He would naturally use expressions that directly relate to food and cooking. When presented with a situation that seems to have fallen through (a big party was nothing but a big flop), he would say something like, “The party was just like a deflated soufflé!”
Just be sure that when you incorporate dialogue into your work, you don’t use it as filler. There’s a difference between having a character describe something to another and having the character divulge information about where the object came from, its significance, what it looks, feels, tastes, smells, sounds like. Dialogue should reveal facets of your characters and the plot. Remember: show, don’t tell. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve put down because a character has stood in front of a mirror and has described every single detail about himself/herself to the reader. If a person is looking into a mirror, they usually don’t think, “Oh, my knee-length honey blond hair looks perfectly straight today!” or my favorite, “Oh, her cropped, platinum blond hair with blue, green, orange, and pink highlights was spiked into a faux-hawk that perfectly represented her rocker personality, and her ripped up jeans and spiked biker boots and her tattoos just gave her a dangerous vibe–you know, the one’s with the skulls wrapped with ivy and the flaming wolf and they one with the barbed wire, blah, blah, blah.”
Dialogue is much more than talking, and it’s far more than a cheap way the writer can describe character instead of being creative about it. It’s a way the writer can show the depth and personality of a character though how they communicate with other characters.
Thanks for reading!