20 Tips on Using Interjections in Fiction Dialogue - #WriteTip

July 18, 2016



Creating realistic, natural-sounding dialogue in writing can be a difficult task for writers. Dialogue may come off as rigid and artificial. The most useful tool for creating an air of humanism in a character’s dialogue is the interjection.

An interjection is a noun (more of a sound) that stands alone in a sentence and is designed to convey the emotion of the speaker or narrator. By “stands alone,” we mean to say that an interjection is not grammatically connected to the sentence in which it is used. 

Interjections are used by authors to add an element of realism to their prose, as humans often use interjections heavily within their everyday speech. Interjections are often followed by an exclamation mark, leading people to refer to them as “exclamations.” 

Examples of interjections are:

“Ouch!” and “Wow!” or even “Cheers!” or "Huh?" or "Uh..."

“Wow! Your new car rocks!” 
This sentence illustrates the function of an interjection. “Wow,” being the interjection, stands completely on its own, not connected to the subsequent sentence by anything other than context.  As you can see, it is followed by an exclamation mark, adding excitement to the quote. You can imagine the character saying this with widened eyes and an excited tone while commenting on the massive spoon at which he is looking. 

Compare this to saying, “That car rocks.” 

The latter sentence is lifeless and conveys no emotion to the reader whatsoever. Interjections have the unique ability of being able to stand as sentences all on their own. 

The exclamation “Whatever!” and "Shut up!"—often heard as a teenager storms out of a room—is an example of an interjection functioning as a one-word sentence.

Uh, so yeah, this section is about, um, filled pauses.
Another form of interjection that is useful for adding a humanistic element to dialogue is called the filled pause. These are used by people in, uh, well, a lot of spoken sentences. They are not necessarily “words” per se, but rather sounds that people make during pauses in speech. 

The filled pause can be used to convey such character traits and emotions as nervousness, stupidity, indifference, or impatience. All an author must do is think about the sounds they themselves or others would make while in those situations. Imagine a nervous teenager asking out the prettiest girl in his high school, if you will.

“Hey, uh, Sylvia? I, um, was wondering if, uh, you would go to, like, a movie with me, or like whatever.”

Poor Patrick here has unwittingly used seven filled pauses in his attempt to ask Sylvia on a date. The filled pauses serve to efficiently convey his gut-wrenching nervousness. 

Sylvia’s response?  “Wow! Patrick! Of course!” 

 “Ha! Johnson, come over here and check out this photo!” 
Using interjections and filled pauses may be effectively inserted within dialogue.

I, uh, wouldn’t mind a job, but um, I can only work on weekends?” 

Interjections are an excellent way of expressing emotion within the dialogue of your prose, but you must be careful not to overuse them. Used sparingly and appropriately, interjections can breathe a true sense of humanity into your character, giving them the sort of personality that readers can connect with on a deeper level. Take poor Patrick, for example; by the end of his painful plea, didn’t you feel at least a bit sorry for him? If you did, it’s thanks to the interjections.


Short List of Interjections 

  • Aha
  • Boo
  • Crud
  • Dang
  • Eew
  • Gosh
  • Goodness
  • Ha
  • Oh
  • Oops
  • Oh no
  • Ouch
  • Rats
  • Shoot
  • Uh-oh
  • Uh-huh
  • Ugh
  • Yikes
  • Yuck

3 comments :

  1. thank you, great post. I can always use a little help with dialog.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post! This is an area of dialogue that isn't explored very often--really helpful :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

    ReplyDelete
  3. This article has probably been here a while and it is the most useful I have come across to date. Thanks heaps.

    ReplyDelete

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