Saturday, May 11, 2013

Writing Exercise: A Story in Dialogue

A Story in Dialogue

With two characters, tell a story using only lines of dialogue. No tags, no description – only words that go between the quotes.

Dialogue is a key tool to reveal character, plot, setting (time and place), tension, conflict – all the elements that help to elevate your story from the pages. The world you create becomes rounder with dialogue that serves more than just two characters talking to each other.

In this exercise, bring dialogue to life by giving characters their own differentiating and natural speaking patterns, idiosyncrasies, or colloquialisms. Express mood and reactions through word choice. Be succinct, let the dialogue reveal the story. Cut down on words or empty phrases that don’t carry their weight or contribute enough. Practice emphatic dialogue without depending upon the exclamation point to carry shock or surprise.

  • Avoid reader feeder: don’t have one character iterate information to the other for the sake of the reader. “You know how we just came from our super boring fifth period history of Europe class?” “Oh, the class where our teacher uses paperclips like army knives?” That’s reader feeder. Both characters already know this information and have no need to repeat it to each other.
  • Use character names infrequently: Think about how often you actually use the name of the person you’re addressing.
  • Consider the relationship of the two characters: this will impact the way they speak to each other, formally or informally, or even how in tune one character might be with each other’s thoughts, emotions, or history.

(cross-posted from KSW on Tumblr)

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