Thursday, October 18, 2012

ABC's of Writing - (D)ialogue: It's More Than Just Talking

More often than not, I end up passing on projects from authors because the story really lacks depth. This is depth of character as well as plot development. When I read the initial premise, or I heard the story idea through a pitch session, the over-all story sounded great! But then, when it became time to really get into the story and see how things played out, the story fell flat. The story and the writing was 2-dimensional.

For many of these writers, the easiest solution would have been to examine the dialogue in the story. Dialogue provides so much more to the story and frankly, I think many authors simply miss out on the power of this great tool. I should also note we really see this when authors are using 1st person narrative and, in the end, the entire story is dialogue.

As the title of this blog states, dialogue is much more than just characters talking to one another. As humans, we can discover so much about a person by truly listening to what people tell us and by what they don't tell us. We can learn how our people react to situations by truly examining what they say in a time of crisis, happiness or sadness.

Now, don't get me wrong. We can still use dialogue as a "plot device" to just get the characters from one point to the next in the story, or for unloading some information on the reader. But to truly be successful with your writing, take the time to examine so many other opportunities dialogue can provide for you.

Dialogue can adjust the pacing of your story. More dialogue and snappier dialogue speeds things up. More narration slows the pace down.

Dialogue can provide introsection. Yes, we can get introspection through the narration that surrounds the dialogue, but we can also use it through our dialogue tags.

"You are an amazing writing," Scott lied. 7 words and there is a lot going on with this line.

Dialogue shows us the value systems our characters work with. If given multiple things to talk about, what comes up first in the conversation? This tells us a lot.

I actually use this last one when authors pitch to me. One of my requirements is that I don't want writers to read pitches to me. What I have often found is that the written text has been so crafted and so wordsmithed, that the real storyline is being covered up by words the author believes we WANT to hear. When I have writers just tell me their story, what they think, and what their mind believes to be the most important elements of the story or concept will immediately move to the front of the conversation.

If you want a good practice at understanding dialogue, go back and start to examine how other authors use it in their own text. I think you will be surprised to find there is indeed much more than a lot of talking.


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