Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dial D for Dialogue

As a longtime writer, I have always believed that the heart of a story is crisp, right to the point dialogue.

I am all for strong narrative, description, scenery, thoughts, and other elements that make for a great novel. However, what comes out of the mouths of characters can make or break the book.

For instance, if your protagonist just goes on and on while saying little of substance, it can definitely weigh down the novel and cause the plot to drag.
On the other hand, if a character has something worth saying, that can be said in as few words as possible while still moving the story along, then that will hold the attention of the reader and give the writer something to build on.

Beyond that, I enjoy hearing what people have to say in fiction, as opposed to telling us what they are doing and thinking. I believe this breathes life into any plot and make the characters seem real. The latter is especially true when the dialogue comes from the heart or soul of character and is spoken in real language rather than scripted words as is often found in screenplays and teleplays.

Do you prefer more or less dialogue as a writer or reader?


Charles Gramlich said...

I definitely prefer less dialogue, although a lot of that is because so much of it seems so badly done. Good dialogue helps a story, but bad dialogue often hurts the story more than bad description does. I've never been that good at writing it either so that may be part of my bias.

Liane Spicer said...

I'm also of the less-is-more school when it comes to dialogue. There are many elements of the story that simply can't be effectively conveyed by characters yammering on and on.

Many of the dialogue-heavy novels I've read have been somewhat lacking in substance. Even a few authors that I admire (Toni Morrison, for example) can get a bit carried away with pages and pages of dialogue with nary a dialogue tag to keep things grounded.

(And I'm not saying this because I suck at dialogue; several of my reviewers have complimented me this aspect of my work.)

G said...

I try to find a happy medium when it comes to dialogue. I used to write scads of it back in the early days of do this thingy, and all I did was drive myself batty in the process.

Now that I've gotten a little better, I try not puncutate more than a half page at a clip with dialogue.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I love dialog if it is witty, funny and adds to the story. If the dialog is a just filler to make up the word count (believe me, I've read some like that)then it should be there.

KeVin K. said...

I tend to skip long blocks of exposition/setting/etc. looking for dialog. For me human interaction is what the story is about -- and for that you need dialog. (My aversion to long paragraphs does lead me to break perfectly good paragraphs in half just to avoid the opaque-mass-of-words-on-a-page visual.)

Perhaps it's my early stage training -- I originally intended to be a playwright -- but I usually build scenes by writing the dialog first, with the fewest possible minimal tags, then build the set and block out the movements once I know what the scene is about.