Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Dialogue - Eileen Charbonneau - Elements of the Novel

What's a story without dialogue? Dialogue is one of the elements that keep a novel moving forward. In Elements of the Novel, Eileen Charbonneau gives some hints for writing dialogue. Good dialogue does many things. Insite is one. Have you ever listened to strangers talking and formed judgments about their nature, the importance of what they are talking about? Do you sometimes use this to create a story?

Dialogue should move the story forward. One can't use dialogue in an idle fashion. There must be a  reason for the characters to talk to each other. Good dialogue can bring about change. One of the problems is to write in prose about what the characters will say in a later bit of dialogue. Redundancy doesn't work but leaves the reader saying, "I already know that."

Dialogue should show the characters relationship to the other characters and their reactions to the events that are happening. Dialogue should show the differences between characters, who they are, where they have come from and what their chosen direction in life happens to be. Men talk differently than women. A nurse will speak differently than a college professor. These things should be kept in mind when writing dialogue.

One little thing I find when the dialogue seems off is to take out all the background elements and write out the dialogue as if it were a play. Then read it aloud. This lets you hear if people sound the same or if one character is speaking out of character. Try it and see if your dialogue becomes more vital. As Eileen says, "Dialogue is the spine of the story giving your characters the chance to speak in their own voice."

1 comment:

R. Ann Siracusa said...

Very informative article. I find the last tip about reading just the dialogue really works. In fact, I usually start scenes with just the dialogue and fill in the necessities and background after that. Ann