on Writers Helping Writers:
I’ve been thinking a lot about dialogue lately, because when it’s done poorly, it pulls me right out of the story. There are a lot of issues that contribute to weak dialogue: incorrect mechanics, stilted speech, characters calling each other repeatedly by name (Hi, Bob. Hey, Mary. Could you help me with this, Bob? Sure thing, Mary!)…The list goes on. But instead of talking today about the wrong parts of our characters’ conversations, I want to focus on an important element that’s often missing: tension.
Tension is that gut-curdling, oh-crap feeling you get when you realize trouble’s coming. It’s the rising emotion that emerges at the onset or even the barest hint of conflict. Tension is incredibly important because it stirs the reader’s emotion and builds their interest. It should exist in every scene, and an easy way to add it is through our characters’ verbal interactions.