Tips For Writers By Gloria Russell In this article, we’re talking dialogue prompts. We’ll cover what they are, what the pros and cons are to starting off your story with a juicy line of dialogue, and we’ll hit you with a list of 75 dialogue prompts to get you started on your next story. Ready? Let’s go! What is a Dialogue Prompt So, what is a dialogue prompt, exactly? A dialogue prompt is a piece of dialogue that’s intended to, well, prompt you. You may already be familiar with creative writing prompts. This little nugget is meant to inspire your next piece of writing. You can write whatever you want from it, whether that’s a short story, a poem, or a full-fledged novel. Should You Start a Story With Dialogue? When it comes to starting a story with dialogue, look at it the way you’d look at any other decision you’d make with your story. Are you doing this for a specific reason—in other words, is this an intentional, purposeful choice that adds something to the reading experience? Is this really the best possible way to start your story? If so, then go ahead! Pros of Starting a Story With Dialogue If you’re not sure, don’t sweat it. Here are the pros and cons of starting a story with dialogue. If you’re stuck on whether your opener really needs dialogue, feel free to consult this list and weigh your options! 1. Who Said It? Starting with dialogue creates an immediate connection to the text. Before anything else, the reader wants to know who said it, why they said it, and who they’re saying it to. This is especially true if you’ve got a particularly powerful line of dialogue, which you absolutely should if you’re starting out with dialogue. 2. Immediate Characterization Opening with a strong characterizing line can help your reader get to know your characters faster. Maybe they’ll immediately like or dislike them, but either way, they’ll have an opinion about them and a vested interest in them, even if that interest is just in seeing the conversation through. Cons of Starting a Story With Dialogue Not all books are a fit to start out with a line of dialogue. 1. Context Matters Starting out with dialogue alone can feel a little weird. We know what’s being said, sure, but we don’t know where. We don’t know who the characters are, where they are, what’s going on around them—-there’s a ton of context missing, and that makes it hard for the scene to feel rooted. 2. Small Talk Stinks Starting with small talk, characters introducing themselves, and that sort of thing can all be an immediate turn-off. It’s bad enough trying to make small talk in person. People generally don’t want to read it for fun, and who can blame ‘em? It’s difficult to start with meaningful dialogue, because meaningful dialogue comes out of a rich context, and you don’t have that at the very start of a story. Dialogue Prompts to Start Your Next Story If you’re struggling to think of a story or an interesting path to take with dialogue, we have a bunch of dialgue prompts in various genres to get you started. Romance Dialogue Prompts What’s the last thing someone says before they break up with their partner of twenty years? What’s the first thing your lovebirds say to each other? Your main character is trying to impress someone they think is out of their league. What do they say to impress them? Write a story that starts with this line: “It’s not like I married him on purpose, you know?” Your characters wake up in bed after a one-night stand. What’s the first thing they say to each other? “I know it’s impossible to believe, but I think I might actually have feelings for you.” Change up a line of a love song and use it as a line of dialogue. A young woman decides to get back out there after a bad breakup. She runs into her ex at the first club she goes to—what does she say to him? “I don’t want you to go.” Two friends have been studying together all semester, and the tension is building. What does one of them say to finally make it clear that what’s going on isn’t totally platonic? After doing everything he can to win his crush’s affection, his crush rejects him. How does he respond? “This has been a wonderful date, but I think we should never, under any circumstances, ever see each other again.” Write dialogue between two teenagers who pretend to hate each other, but are not-so-secretly flirting. A pair of high schoolers are about to be crowned prom king and queen. Write their speeches. What does a hardworking electrician say to win the heart of the wealthy CEO she’s been crushing on for months? “If I told you, you’d hate me forever.” SciFi/Fantasy Dialogue Prompts “Captain, bad news. The ship is definitely leaking.” A scientist monitoring a computer gets a message from extraterrestrial life. What do the aliens have to say? After a long, painful war, a happy kingdom has fallen. Write the speech the dethroned king gives to his subjects to give them hope for the changes ahead. What does a young man say to get the king’s blacksmith to agree to let him take on an apprenticeship? “I’ve been alive for seven hundred years, and you’re the most annoying person I’ve ever met.” Dragons have been spotted for the first time in a thousand years. A young princess finds them when she’s sneaking out, and she keeps sneaking out to hang out with them. What does she say to the king and queen when they find out she’s been slipping out at night? “I don’t care what the King says. We’re making an invasion with or without his approval.” Write the last interstellar radio message received from a failed mission to a new planet. A new colony was just established on a new galaxy, and they’re reporting in for the first time. What do they have to say about their new life? “Do you think we should tell the boss that we blew up that planet, or just forget about it?” An alien lands on Earth and makes their way to the nearest gas station. What do they say to the cashier? A group of warriors finds a spy in their camp. What question do they ask to tell if they’re a spy, or a fellow warrior? “I’m not asking for your good graces. I’m asking for your throne.” While at recess, a group of kids discovers a strange object in the middle of the schoolyard. When they activate it, it talks to them. What does it say? Western Dialogue Prompts A group of bandits rolls into town and starts causing trouble in the local saloon. What does the Sheriff say to get them to leave? A young girl has been looking to get revenge on the man who killed her father. She finally finds the killer’s hideout—what does she say to him? “You’ll serve me whiskey or I’ll shoot you dead, how about that?” The judge is finally in town to try a man who’s been accused of stealing someone’s horse. When he’s put on the stand, the story is much weirder than anyone expected. What does he say? “Reckon that’s about what I expected, to tell you the truth. Why don’t you run n’ tell Miss O’Reilly we found her little boy.” A group of thieves takes a young damsel captive. How does she talk herself free? Write the conversation between the Sheriff’s wife and the Sheriff when he tells her he’s going to handle the bandits who have been terrorizing the nearby farmers. In the middle of the night, something spooky keeps waking up the smallest child. When they investigate, it’s a voice calling from the woods. What does it say? “Didn’t think I’d ever see you round these parts. Oh, don’t be mistaken—I’m awful glad for it.” Contemporary Dialogue Prompts Every day, our main character has the same interaction with their local barista. One day, the barista says something disturbing and ominous. What is it? The captain of the football team breaks into the principal’s office on the last day of school. What message does he give over the intercom? Write the argument a family has on their way to Disneyland that actually makes Dad turn the car around. Two siblings haven’t spoken in years. One night, one of them turns up at the other’s doorstep with an urgent message. What is it? “Yeah, okay, so the car is definitely totaled. But what are we gonna do about the goat?” A grad student goes on a journey to find themselves in Europe. What’s the first thing they say to their closest friend when they come back? A man travels to an island where outsiders haven’t been allowed in for hundreds of years. Write the conversation he has with them when they first meet. “This is exactly why we’re in therapy to begin with!” A reporter journeys to a cult that’s rumored to be deadly. One of the cult members pulls her aside and tries to warn her to leave—write their conversation. It’s an employee’s last day on the job, and they’re completely fed up. Write what they say to their boss, who has tormented them since they started working. Write the conversation a kid has with their parents after they crashed their first car. Write the conversation a kid has with their parents as they’re moving the kid into their college dorm room. “I’m not telling you unless you give me the key to the safe.” Mystery Dialogue Prompts A private investigator asks the staff at the diner in the next town over whether they’ve seen a missing person. What does the diner staff say? What does the killer say to the police when he’s finally caught? A teenager decides to go looking for their missing friend themselves when the local authorities seem to be dragging their feet. What lie do they tell their parents to sneak out at night? A serial killer leaves a voicemail on his victims’ phones before he kills them. What does he say? A chain of armed robberies has a small town on edge. One day, a police officer says something that makes everyone think he’s behind it. What does he say? Write the false confession of the killer’s wife covering for him while he skips town. “You said Johnny’s there? But he’s standing right in front of me.” What’s the warning one old man gives every newcomer who comes to town? A woman searches her dead husband’s computer and finds a recording of a phone call that implicates him in a horrible crime. Write the phone call. “You have everyone else in this family fooled, but not me.” Dystopian Dialogue Prompts What is the last speech the president gives before society is overrun by a deadly virus? “But they said no one could survive outside the city.” In a society safe from the contamination of the fallen world, the government receives a radio message from the heart of the contamination zone. What does it say? One man used to be a professor before the world ended. Now, he’s supposed to lead the last group of people confirmed to have survived the apocalypse. What speech does he give them when he’s elected to lead? Write the conversation between a small family trying to outrun a natural disaster which will eventually wipe out their entire town. One day, a woman wakes up and realizes she’s living in a simulation. She realizes this because of something someone says. What did they say to her? “No. Burn the entire village—we can’t be sure they aren’t infected, and we can’t afford to be wrong.” The world is ending, so humans are going to space. Write the conversation a mother has with her daughter before her daughter is sent to start a new colony on a space mission. A group of travelers finds an old cassette tape filled with instructions from before the grid shut down. Somehow, they get the cassette working. What do the instructions say? Write the conversation where a child convinces their parent to let them play outside the city limits—just this once. The president’s daughter overheard him give instructions that will bring about the end of the world. What does she say when she confronts him?