Posted in books, editing, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Why dialogue is more than just characters talking to each other

The purpose of dialogue is to advance the plot, communicate information, develop character voice, illuminate the theme, provide conflict, and/or change the direction of the plot.

Dialogue can be used in a variety of ways to accomplish these goals.

Be evasive

Direct Q&A between characters can get boring very quickly. Sidestep answers, be roundabout with explanations, create mystery, and make the reader question what’s being said. Dialogue is a great opportunity for teasing out information and leading the reader toward an idea without expressing it directly.

Use silence

When a character needs a moment to consider what they’ve been told, use exposition to allow for internal thought, emotion, or observation. This is a great opportunity to add sensory details and flesh out the scene. Study how people talk and use natural pauses as opportunities to expand on what’s being discussed.

Make it a confrontation

Confrontational dialogue exchanges can convey a great deal of information without being lengthy. These types of exchanges give hints and lead the reader toward ideas and conclusions rather than openly telling them. Take this excerpt as an example of confrontation in dialogue:

“I know who you are,” Charles said.

“You know nothing,” John said.

“You’re that doctor.”

“If you don’t mind, I—”

“From Hopkins. You killed that woman because you were soused. Yeah, that’s it.”

This example gives the reader information about John’s past and the fact that many people are aware of what he did. It also gives a glimpse into his personality and how he feels about the situation and being known mainly for his mistake. The reader gets a few specific details about the event, but not enough to know the whole story. This exchange builds conflict and reveals important information.

Polish later

Just like it’s often a challenge to come up with the right response on the spot when in a conversation, getting the responses right in dialogue can also take time. Don’t be afraid to write out the dialogue to get the basic structure down, but come back later to fine tune and tweak.

Dialogue resources

If you struggle with punctuating dialogue properly, this is a great resource!

Studying dialogue from movies can also help writers improve their dialogue and use is more purposefully. Check out this fun link of great dialogue scenes from movies!

Posted in books, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

How does narrative voice effect storytelling?

An important part of choosing the right narrative mode involves choosing what narrative voice to use.

Narrative modes are individual elements used to relay a story to the reader, and include:
Dialogue, action, description, exposition, thought and scene.

desk-2906792

Dialogue is the talk that is exchanged between characters. It is spoken communication and is punctuated with quotations. It shows personality, reveals information, and gives the reader insight about the character’s thoughts, worldview, and self-perception.

Action is events portrayed as they happen in a story. Action takes time to develop and happens in a specific place. Action is not a “report” or something that happened. It should be described “blow by blow” and not as a summary.

Description is details about how something, some place, or some person looks behaves or functions. Description should have purpose. It should develop setting, characters, situation, and time period. Description should not be self-serving or irrelevant to the situation or story. It should help orient readers in the scene.

Exposition is the telling of the story through relaying information. It is used for explaining, transitions, and narrative summary to skip details of unimportant but necessary events. Too much exposition is referring to as “telling.” Not every part of the story should be told as exposition.

Thought is character self-talk or inner dialogue. It may be only thoughts, or actual talk (self encouragement or disparagement). In third person, thought is italicized to mark it as different from dialogue. First person wording (“I”) is also used in thoughts.

Scene sets the stage for a particular part of a story. It informs the reader of the situation the story section will take place in. Special attention should be paid to the open and close of each scenes so it does not begin or extend beyond what is relevant.

Narrative Voice

Narrative voice encapsulates the writer’s and narrator’s voice, viewpoint, style, tone, mood, and how a story is presented. Voice shows personality and changes depending on the character or situation. Nearly all elements of a story contribute to the voice of the story and needs to be consciously thought out to make sure it’s present in the best way for a particular story.

 

typewriter-407695_1920

Elements of Narrative Voice

Attitude has to do with emotion, values, and beliefs, worldview, and feelings about a particular person or situation. It reveals how the narrator speaks, their body language, reactions, and actions.

Tone isn’t just what is said but how something is said. Speed of speech, loudness/quietness, word choice, emotion behind words, and physical actions accompanying words all affect tone.

Personal style includes vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar/technical aspects, and personal preferences. This can be developed for each character to highlight uniqueness.

Choosing narrative modes to develop a distinct narrative voice

Every story has a unique balance of narrative modes based on which create the most appropriate feel. Modes should be varied. Stories that rely to heavily on one or a select few become monotonous.

  • Vary modes used to open and close scenes
  • Break up big chunks of dialogue with action
  • Avoid long sections of thought
  • Space out action scenes to give readers a chance to reflect and anticipate what comes next
  • Keep description to what is relevant and helps develop the story, setting, or characters

How a story is told is just as important as the story being told.