Using speech in fiction

Home learning focus

To revise how to use speech within fiction.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos to refresh your memory of how to punctuate direct speech when writing fiction

  • three activities


Direct speech is any word spoken by a character and is often used in fiction to help develop the characters and plot. It must be carefully structured and punctuated to clearly separate it from the rest of the text.

Watch this short clip to refresh your memory on the rules of direct speech.

Learn how to correctly structure and punctuate direct speech when writing fiction.

Rules to remember

  1. The words spoken by a character sit inside speech marks:

'Did you hear that noise?' whispered Sam.

  1. Every time there is a new speaker in the conversation, a new line is used.

  2. A reporting clause after the direct speech tells the reader who is speaking. Once a conversation gets started, it’s fine to drop the reporting clauses if your reader knows who is speaking as in the conversation below:

'I think there is something moving in the bushes,' George said, looking carefully in the direction from which the sound came.

'I can’t see anything,' said Molly.

'Perhaps we should turn our torches on,' whispered George.

'Okay, but let’s be really quiet.'

  1. Each section of direct speech should end with a punctuation mark which should always be included inside the speech marks. If there is a reporting clause, then there is often a comma before the final speech marks.

Watch the following clip to recap about speech marks before moving on.

Speech marks are used to show speech when writing.


Activity 1

Take this short quiz to see what you know about how to punctuate and structure direct speech in fiction.

Activity 2

Imagine you are writing a section of a book based on the scene in the image below:

Use the image above of a boy and a man staring out of a window to inspire you.

Write two or three paragraphs that describe the setting and what is going on. Within these paragraphs write the dialogue between the two characters in the image.

Try to show one or two of these feelings:

  • confusion
  • reassurance
  • worry
  • relief

Top tip:

  • Consider what may be happening in the image.
  • What could they talk about?
    -Think about the emotions that you are trying to portray and try to get the speech to match those emotions.

Example to show the worry of the boy:

'When will they come back?' cried Jake as he stared longingly out of the window.

Activity 3

Now that you have revised how to use direct speech, explore how you can use dialogue in a story by analysing someone else's work using these questions from Oxford University Press.

If you want to take it further you can also complete the developing your writing task on the second page.

Using dialogue in stories

Where next?

In this lesson you have learnt about the use of speech within fiction.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you make your writing interesting and engaging.

There's more to learn

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