Just Talkin’…

I’ve emerged from my NaNo fog to grab a breath of fresh air. Truthfully, I’m taking a break from my characters’ angst. They’ve been arguing off and on ever since the beginning of the story and I’m getting a little fed up with them.

There’s a lot to be said for dialogue — useful exchanges — in writing. Coincidentally (or not… you never know), my e-mail subscription to Jessica Morrell’s monthly newsletter arrived this morning and in it she starts right out discussing the merits of dialogue.

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“We use dialogue for many reasons, but the mains ones are:

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  • It advances action in the story and visually breaks up the page, thus attracting the reader’s eye.
  • Dialogue is fast moving and readers appreciate the quick pace and sense of being there.
  • Dialogue is more memorable than narration and is often a power struggle or power exchange.
  • The writer can insert opinions other than her own when people start talking.
  • Dialogue and conversations are crucial elements to the rhythm of a story.
  • Dialogue reveals a character’s background, social status, and education and it can quickly and painlessly deliver essential information.

“…. It demonstrates conflict, pushes the story forward, provides or summarizes information, comments on actions and place, and reveals characters, emotions and character’s relationships. In other words, dialogue plays a vital, starring role in every piece of fiction.

“However, it’s single most important role is to reveal the uniqueness of character.”

[Jessica Page Morrell – November 2009]

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What does dialogue reveal about my characters? I’m off to have a look at the story and see. It also won’t hurt to check if I’m making good use of their dialogue or just filling up pages to add to my NaNo word count. (Did I say that? I would never do that!) 😉

[Graphic: MS Office online]

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8 thoughts on “Just Talkin’…

  1. Laura Best says:

    I’ve come to really enjoy writing dialogue. I know a few interesting characters (real life) who have such a unique way of speaking . I think in writing it’s what helps to make memorable characters.

  2. Jody Hedlund says:

    Thanks for sharing that list! What a great reminder! Glad to hear you’re making good progress so far with NaNo!

  3. joylene says:

    I like good dialogue. I haven’t given my own work much thought until last Monday when 93.1 CFIS posted one of my chapters from Broken But Not Dead. As I listened, I found myself thinking, Not bad. That’s a first for me and I’m still not sure what to do with that information. lol. Except to say, “I like good dialogue.”

    Thanks for sharing the list, Carol. I’m marking them down.

  4. I don’t often stop to think much about what the dialogue is accomplishing. What the characters are talking about, of course, is pertinent to the plot. But I just put myself into their heads and let them spout off, and it seems to work. Jessica’s list gives me a lot to think about, too.

  5. Joseph says:

    OK…I am probably out of sorts here as a non-writer but I love this list….from a public speakers point of view.

    As a public speaker these really apply as well. In my speaking I tell a story because it is the only way to connect with my audience. Nothing is worse than not having a rhythm to a speech.

    Even though it is looked at as “Dialog” in terms of a writer, speakers also use this same or similar “Dialog”. At least the great ones do I believe.

    May sound weird and might be something only rolling around my head in logical terms 🙂 It would not be the first time!

    • Makes perfect sense to me. Public speaking is another form of storytelling. I think good public speaking probably draws listeners in with similar dialogue techniques and for the same reasons.

  6. Iapetus999 says:

    Hey! No editing!! 😡
    The problem I have with some people’s dialog is that it’s endless and pointless. Yes, IRL, people do have endless arguments, trying over and over again to make their point. Usually a two-hour argument can be boiled down to a few key sentences. Dialog does not replace action, and sometimes it’s another way authors can get away with telling, so be careful not to over-use dialog.

    • I withstood the temptation to go back very far, Andrew. I just evaluated the conversation that was happening when I took my break from it, so no editing. I promise. 🙂 I’m with you — dialogue in fiction, while it needs to sound natural, mustn’t be as tedious as it often is in real life. Like everywhere else, every sentence of dialogue should be chosen to serve a purpose.

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