Writing Dialog in Fiction – Part 3 – Instrumentalize
By Bruce L. Cook
Strong dialogue empowers your fiction story.
As seen in the first parts of this exploration of dialogue, any fiction story is enriched when dialogue is well implemented. Part 1 – correct grammar. Part 2 – personalized dialogue. And now, Part 3, instrumental dialogue
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Strong dialogue empowers your fiction story.
As seen in the first parts of this exploration of dialogue, any fiction story is enriched when dialogue is well implemented. Part 1 – correct grammar. Part 2 – personalized dialogue. And now, Part 3, instrumental dialogue.
As a fiction writer, you may well ask why dialogue needs special attention. After all, it seems so natural.
As you write, you find that dialogue is often a convenient bridge. Within an event, dialogue shows momentary status. Before or after an event, it shows what will happen or what happened. It allows the writer to explain things without intervening as a third person narrator.
So, at first glance, “bald” dialogue seems to need little evaluation. For example.
“Come here!” Sam demanded.
“Why?” she asked.
And so on….
The dialogue carries the conflict and allows the reader to imagine what the characters are thinking.
That’s how I saw the dialogue thing. Since my fiction teachers told me that my dialogue was excellent, I felt I was really good at this. That is, until I was privileged to receive a comment from Val at Typehouse. Commenting on one of my stories, she said. “I would suggest going back through your draft and thinking about what each scene or line of dialogue is doing for the text… I would encourage you to write in the margins what each piece of dialogue is achieving. If you can’t articulate the function of a certain scene or line, it may be unnecessary to the story.”
That’s what I now call dialogue evaluation. Applied to the above excerpt, it might yield this result.
“Come here!” Sam demanded, slamming the door.
“Why?” she asked, slowly moving back to the sink.
“Because,” he shouted, advancing on her and thrusting his jaw forward.
“Just because?” she cooed as she located the mace in the top drawer.
“Just because,” he shouted just before he grasped at his eyes and screamed wildly.
When he could squint again, she was gone.
As you can see, “bald” dialogue, while easy to write, just doesn’t add to the story. Instead, it needs to be instrumental, or even necessary to the tale.
So, here’s my challenge to writers of fiction. Finish your first draft, using “bald” dialogue as you would hear it. But then return to the dialogue and enhance it or at least write marginal notes explaining how it is necessary for the story.
Meanwhile, in your everyday life, avoid saying “Just because.” It can get you into trouble!
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