When I first started writing, I never added action to my dialogue. I know, rookie mistake. I learned that lesson pretty early on. Adding an action in the middle of a conversion makes it more believable.
For example, if your main character is doing housework and someone interrupts her with a question, it is likely that she would pause to answer it, but if that question turns into a whole conversation, there’s a good probability that she would either quit her task and walk away (which she can do while talking) or continue scrubbing the tub while responding, therefore killing two birds with one stone.
Keeping action in a dialogue like this makes the characters seem more real. I can’t count how many times my husband or kids interrupted me while cleaning the house, and I don’t stop but for a moment—too much to do and too little time. Instead, I just answer their questions as best I can and keep on going.
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Another way of doing this is by working in the details of the action. For example, the way the character was distracted by a stubborn spot before responding. Or, how annoyed the other character was by the sound of the scrubbing brush scraping along the side of the tub. There is an unlimited amount of ways to work the action in. Describing the details is a good way, or you can just mention that the character is performing the action, perhaps even as a way of avoiding the conversation.
There is an unlimited amount of ways to work the action in. Describing the details is a good way, or you can just mention that the character is performing the action, perhaps even as a way of avoiding the conversation.
Here is a list of actions that your characters can accomplish while still carrying on a conversion. Think of this as an idea board to get your own creative juices flowing.
50 Ideas for Adding Action to Your Dialogue
- Drinking coffee
- Watering the plants
- Cleaning up blood
- Packing a bag
- Rocking in a rocking chair
- Surfing the internet or doing another task on a computer
- Painting theirs or someone else’s nails
- Giving a massage
- Unpacking or searching through boxes
- Taking a shower
- Setting up a tent or makeshift shelter
- Changing a tire
- Browsing the aisle of a store or library
- Knitting, crocheting, or hand sewing
- Working on a car or motorcycle
- Feeding fish or another small animal in a cage or tank
- Folding clothes
- Cleaning a weapon
- Making a bed
- Playing cards or a board game
- Building and/or tending a fire
- Brushing their hair
- Walking the dog
- Hiking or walking through the woods
- Digging a grave
- Getting dressed/ trying on clothes
- Painting (a wall, mural, canvas)
- Working out
- Taking a bath or shower
- Washing Dishes
- Cleaning/dressing a wound
- Filing papers
- Changing a tire
- Decorating for a birthday or holiday
- Performing the actions of a spell
- Sharpening a knife or sword
- Changing a baby’s diaper
- Chewing gum/ blowing bubbles
- Raking leaves
- Cutting up meat (everyone loves a meat cleaver)
- Home improvement/ repairs
- Wrapping a gift
- Running an EMF meter through a haunted house
I hope these ideas spark your imagination and help liven up your story’s dialogue. Have you combined action with dialogue in a way that worked out nicely? Leave a comment and let us know about it.