Narrative Basics Lesson 4: Speech and Dialogue

Speech as action


Characters can use speech to command other people to do things.

Coach Kimble blew her whistle and said, “All right, ladies. Let’s get on the blocks for the four hundred meter.”

Mango DelightFracaswell HymanSource

Commands can range in strength from subtle suggestions through to direct instructions.

And the way in which someone gives a command, what they give a command about, and who they give it to, can tell us a lot about the character.

For example, in this snippet, what's the coach doing? Commanding runners to get on the starting blocks. How strong is the command? Is she being clear and direct? Does she expect the runners to obey?

Yes. This is an example of a strong command.

This variation in strength is called modality

“Don’t run off with the torch again,” he said. “Please.”

This example is interesting because the "please" is part of the command. Subtle!

I looked at my phone. Carmen. “My place. 7pm. Don’t be late.” She hung up.

Your turn

Like what you see?

You’re not logged in!

If you want to save your writing, login and either assign this lesson to yourself or access it via your class.