Friday 24 October 2008

Dialogue, characters, and the novel

Tell Me a Story - writing advice

Principal element

I’ve said in earlier posts that characters are the principal element of any novel.

Part and parcel of any character development, and of the novel in general, is the manner in which people speak - their dialogue.

  • Dialogue can impart an enormous amount of information in a seamless way
  • Dialogue offers clues to a character’s personality and social class
  • Dialogue offer clues to a characters frame of mind.

As part of characterization creation, dialogue is crucial.

Fifty percent of your novel

  • Up to 50% of your novel will probably be dialogue - it needs to be. Dialogue keeps your story dynamic.
  • Modern books steer clear of long pieces of narrative, modern readers want things to move - narrative slows things down.
  • Modern readers are brought up on a diet of TV and films - loads of dialogue - little narrative. They expect their literature to be the same. Confirm this in popular published books. Study in particularly, those in your genre.
  • Acceptance or rejection of your novel can hang on the balance and quality of your dialogue.
  • If dialogue is going to compose half the novel, it better be good.

    At it’s best; dialogue advances the story and depicts characters far more plainly than descriptive writing. Let’s face it, plain old narrative can be quite boring. Who wants their character or story to be thought of as boring?

Toss that descriptive narrative aside and concentrate on dialogue. That descriptive narrative might be your pride and joy - it might be full of wonderful flowing passages - but it can also weary the pants off people.

Show don't tell

Instead of saying someone was angry, let that character yell and scream. Show what's happening by the tone of words, the staccato remarks, or conversely the gentle exchanges of love.

Vary the tempo

  • Use a verbal exchange of ideas and repartee to infuse buoyancy into a heavy scene
  • Use dialogue to separate long passages of descriptive work
  • Use speech to vary the tempo of your writing.

Don’t assume though, that you can merely pop up with a smattering of any-old dialogue to perk up a dreary section. Speech should fulfil an objective. If it doesn’t, if it’s only chitchat, scrub it out, find something else for your character to do. Every word in your novel should count, whether it be dialogue or narrative there is no excess baggage allowed.

Every word, every piece of dialogue, every character in your novel should fulfil an exact purpose. There should be no hangers on in this game.

End of post - Dialogue, characters, and the novel

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love dialogue but I'm always worried when I critiques that say my script is like watching a movie.