How to Write an Arguing Scene


Part One

  1. Who, what, when, where, why, how? Why are they arguing and about what? With whom? And where? 

»A. Set the scene first. Add in whether they are onlookers or people cheering them on. How is the environment they are arguing in?

I. Argument can be outside or inside. In church or on top of a mountain in -40 degree weather. Between two lovers or strangers, possibly a child and adult. The only limit to who is arguing is that they are between the same species. Technically a human can argue with an animal such as a parrot but any depth or substance behind that is unlikely. Even two people who don’t speak the same language can ague with each other…. Just in two different languages and they won’t understand the other unless there is a translator nearby.  
II. What is the argument about? How long until someone decided to argue? Was it something the person did for many years before an argument happened? Or was it something so dumb that it needed to be condemned ASAP? How much substance does this argument have, if any. Or is it just a fun argument to have just to be having one? Someone lying on the resume and then not being able to complete the job properly has more meaning than a customer who is arguing over shoes that were not in stock at their favorite shop. However, you can add substance to the latter. For example:

let’s say the customer is a millionaire and took time off of creating a business to fly out to his own store in person and buy a pair of shoes. However, when he got there the store didn’t have the most popular pair in stock, therefore he lost out on a lot of revenue.


Suggest YOUR Scene Idea


»B. Any objects used as barriers or weapons? People tend to walk away or move objects to distract themselves in arguments.

I. How did this altercation start and are these two or more people, the primary cause of the argument? What triggered the person to complain? Also, the people arguing could very well not be the initial arguers. Maybe they stepped in to argue for another person who probably did not have the capacity, time or energy to argue. They could have joined as a team to argue against the other person.  
II. What is used to shield their true feelings, someone’s punches, physical advances? Could be a lamp or a book or a imaginary wall and each time the other person crosses it the character steps back.

Anything thrown like dishes or jewelry? Perhaps papers or clothing. Do they literally hide into another room yet continue to argue from fear of the other person attacking them?

III. What movements or gestures do they do as a barrier? Such as bit their lip or tongue to refrain from saying anything. Close their eyes in anger, not wanting to look at the person or possibly turning their head away. Avoiding eye contact,snarling, or even keeping silent.  

Part Two

    1. How are they arguing? Like adults or children? Any physical contact? Speaking with elaborate detail, cursing, etc?

»A. What are the thoughts of the main character(s). What do they wish they could do but wouldn’t for the sake of maturity?

I. Imagine the characters in your head arguing. Consider their personalities and how they react to a certain saying. Not everyone knows exactly what they want to say. Take into account stuttering, repeating themselves and awkward silences. 
II. Usually children would argue by calling each other silly names (Boogerhead, dummy,lamebrain), majorly expressive gestures (sticking tongue out,folding arms and turning the head away whiles saying “Hmmm, so there.”) They may run and hide or tell on the other person. Hit, punch, or slap. As for adults; may call each other names but more vulgar. Swear, hit, punch and slap all the same but we tend to discuss things with words or yell.  
III. Write about what’s going through the character’s head and what they are really thinking about the argument. Do they think they have a chance to come out on top or do they plan on arguing endlessly to make the other person so tired that forget the entire thing or call quits? 

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»B.Does anyone have to intervene to argue as well or to try breaking up the arguing?

I. A higher power such as parent or boss or government can stop the two. But even a child, animal or peer can do the same but in different ways. All the above can also join in the argument, whether it’s for one side, the other side or both sides (You both have a point.Usually we call the person a mediator if they help sort things out between the two people. 
II. If people don’t intervene or cannot break up the argument, then there could be weather, a deity, a feeling such as guilt or shame, especially if important people or children are onlookers. Time is another major factor that can prevent the two from continuing. If one or both people are in a rush for work or going to an important event, arguing doesn’t have time. Therefore, they may agree to disagree and pick up where they left later. 

Part Three

    1. Add in some dialogue and get some feelings hurt!

»A.Some arguments are downright cruel. Don’t hold back, even family members could say the most awful things to one another, sometimes the worst!

I. The people you love know the most know a lot about you and sometimes your deepest, darkest secrets, they can really get underneath your skin. So think about a character arguing. If they argue with a loved one then it can get ugly. So bad they may not ever forgive one another. Does the person still watch Barney or cartoons? Do they still wet their bed at the age of 30? Have a medical condition? Cry like a baby during movies? Has a tick that only the person arguing with them knows how to provoke? A flaw on their body? A mental condition? What would be even worse is if they said it in public to embarrass them.
Warning: This can and will get ugly. If you subject your characters to such misery they cannot simply forgive one another. Some major Sorrys and whatnot need to go down!  
II. Arguing with a stranger may not hurt as much because not much is known about the other person besides the here and now. But if the character lacks confidence in their looks, voice, or the way they speak is made fun of during the argument, they can get equally as hurt as if it was a loved one. Especially, if it’s something they cannot change.  
III. Arguing with self or an animal such as a parrot is different in many ways. A character has to always try to come to a conclusion when arguing with oneself in order to make a healthy move to the next life obstacle. Arguing with oneself can turn into violence against oneself or other people.
Examples of arguing with self:

  • Why am I so stupid
  • Why can’t I get a job
  • You can’t even get a girlfriend/boyfriend)
  • Stop doing that

    Suggest YOUR Scene Idea


    »B. If the argument is more civilized and classy, perhaps add in some passive aggressive tones or humor that one of the characters may not find funny but the reader and onlookers would. The humor can be added as offensive jokes from one of the characters or narrative from you, the author of the scene.

    I. Passive aggressiveness is telling someone what you don’t like about them and making it seem as if you didn’t even mention it or as if you weren’t talking about them yet it’s obvious you were. With that said, the character can say something to another in a calm voice but still provoke the character.

  • (While looking at no one and speaking loud enough to oneself so that the intended target behind or to the side can hear)… I wish whoever keeps leaving their trash at their desk would clean it up
  • (Speaking to the target who just burped and kept eating) Yeah, I make sure to always say excuse me. It’s just something my mom and dad taught me as manners.
  • (Speaking to someone who is of a larger size) Are you sure you want to eat that?

  • Even a gesture can be considered passive aggressive.

  • Deliberate procrastination
  • Intentional mistakes
  • Disguising criticism with compliments
  • The silent treatment
    II. If you want to make fun of a character in your narration you can. It can be subtle or…. passive aggressive.

  • His eyes twitch like it was a light bulb about to give out.
  • His stomach rumbled with anger in tune with his scrawny little face
  • Her voice was so pitchy it sounded like a train wreck waiting to happen.
  • He really had no point to why he said that.
  • Or, you can make the character directly joke about the opponent in a way they wouldn’t even know they did. More so, if a crowd of onlookers were watching and knew exactly what the person meant.


  • Someone who speaks a different language making fun of the opponent in their language and the crowd laughs.
  • Saying a few words the other doesn’t know the meaning to because they have yet to understand the definition.
  • Point out a flaw that is not considered a flaw to the opponent. Such as a shirt sticking out of the pants. To a high-class person that might seem terribly awful. But to a person born and raised in the middle class they may not see what the big deal is.



    Part Four

      1. What is threatened? What is at stake if someone loses the argument? Can both win? Will this argument ever end or continue for days or even years?

    »A. How much can one or both characters loose in the argument and are they prepared? Maybe packing their bags to move out while arguing with their loved one or walking out the building of their jobs while arguing with their boss?

    I. The character(s) can lose their life, family, job, friend, reputation, business, children,materialistic items, and so forth. They can lose their mind, soul (depends on if it’s about religion), time, and heart. State briefly what is to lose from the argument. Preferably from both sides. 
    II. How is the character preparing for the worse while arguing? Are they packing their bags, packing up their desk, signing papers that could end a marriage, hugging their kids goodbye or putting them in the car to leave with them? Getting arrested? You decide.  

    »B. An argument can change a relationship either for the better or for the worse. And not everyone is in agreement to just move on like nothing happened. Is it predictable that this argument might occur again, and if so how much worse?

    I. Has this argument come up before? Did the character know the person would bring it up but not sure when? Is it something that can be changed quickly or take years to fix? Has trust been broken? Were there any witnesses if someone did something wrong? Are there any onlookers as they argue who will bring it up in the future and annoyingly remind the character why they argued with the opponent in the first place?



    Part Five

      1. How is it settled for now or for good?

    »A. Who settles this argument and who moves on as a “winner” and who is the “loser”. What is ultimately agreed upon after the heated discussion?

    I.  Some people love to argue and won’t drop the subject. Which character does that, if any? 

    II. Who wins and why? Who loses and why? Do they know they lost? Or do both participants believe they won?
    III. What is agreed when all is said and done? Who gets what? Who doesn’t get anything? Why is this agreement affective between the two parties who just argued? Was a written contract made? Did a parent vow to take away games if the kids continue to argue so now the kids will agree not too? Is the employee who packed up their things and walked out the door rehired and given a raise?

    Need additional help? We researched other resources to Write an Arguing Scene, just for you! Enjoy:
    Dialogue Tips
    Writing Argument Scenes with Rayne Hall


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