Saturday, October 27, 2018

Dialogue Dilemmas


In writing the first draft of my third novel—and my most ambitious project thus far—I find that there is more dialogue than I usually have. So, I took a moment to ask myself if this is a problem, and here's what I decided.
Dialogue helps to reveal characters, establish motives and goals, increase tension, and further the plot. Good dialogue is interspersed with natural movements and observations by the POV character and remains loyal to each character’s personality.
I look at dialogue as a natural bi-product characterization. When a character is alone, clearly, there will be scenes with little to no dialogue, but when your character is in a group, dialogue is inevitable. So, to my way of thinking, there’s no hard and fast ratio of description to action to dialogue.

Think about it: scripts are mostly dialogue with some description and stage directions, although a lot of work goes into non-scripted elements such as setting and soundtrack to make a scene whole. In writing novels, commercial fiction seems to focus more on concept, plot, and action with only the most essential dialogue and a few witty jokes while literary fiction seems to have more description and highly developed characters. I’ve been told that my writing style is a combination of both, and I don’t put myself in a box by saying this or that is not allowed. As an independent, I have the freedom to make that choice. If I were pursuing traditional publication, I might not have the same freedoms.


There are no rules, only trends.

I have read some works by major, traditionally-published writers whose dialogue goes on and on. Reader opinions on this vary from one extreme to the other, just as their opinions on content vary, so it becomes a question of which group of readers an author is targeting and what type of book that author wishes to write. There are no rules; there are only trends, and I don’t take a lot of stock in trends, although a traditional agent or editor probably does.

While some of the dialogue I’ve written may have to be chopped, I think it’s a positive indication that I’m exploring the characters rather than writing stiffly. I know that the excess dialogue will get fixed on the rewrite, but I’m thinking that it’s possible that it’s not necessarily a matter of excess dialogue but missing descriptions and movements within the dialogue to round out the scene.

I want my characters to feel real and distinct from each other. There is also a good bit of humor that improves the chemistry between my characters and adds a “feel-good” element that I think is important to the genre. If something makes me laugh, I think it may also make my readers laugh or smile, and that’s a good thing.


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