Types of dialogue

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There are two types of dialogue:

  • Outer dialogue: spoken words presented within quotation marks
  • Inner dialogue: internal thoughts of the narrator, which might be presented in italic.
Inner dialogue

Inner dialogue is the internal thoughts of your narrator or whoever has the POV at a particular point in your story.

Remember, you can have a narrator who is not a character – an outsider – telling the story. And you can have his/her thoughts, his/her commentary of what’s going on.

Or, you can have a character wearing the POV hat and, at that stage in the novel, you can let the reader know their innermost thoughts.

If it’s a character who has the point of view, you can go deeper into that character. Reveal the thoughts they would not voice. Using such introspection (AKA internal dialogue, interior monologue, or self-talk), you have the option to reveal their secret hopes and dreams, fears etc. If this is contrary to their spoken words and actions, then this can create tension within that person. Such tension will hopefully engage the reader etc.

While we’re on introspection: Introspection can also be used to widen the scope of a story as the narrator’s mind can go anywhere in the world, anywhere in time.

Outer dialogue

Outer dialogue is simply the spoken word, presented within speech marks.

There are two style options: single or double quotes.

  • If your book is being published traditionally, your publisher will dictate which style is to be used.
  • If not, you can choose.

I recommend single quotes, unless your book includes instances of using single quotes to highlight ‘special’ terms. In that case, you’ll have to use double quotes for the dialogue.


Look back to Gone Fishing. Identify any inner dialogue.

Look at some of your own writing. Do you use inner dialogue?

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