Saturday, April 10, 2010

Talk is cheap...

I am working on two short stories right now. I thought they were finished. Boy was I wrong! One of my mentors made me realize that they needed more than just tweaking. I’ve learned not to get too attached to my stories in a way that I won’t let them follow their own course. Instead of commenting on all the areas that needed fixing, I’ll focus on the one element that is vital to a short story: Dialogue.

Although dialogue should sound real, it doesn’t mean it has to be exact to the way we talk on a daily basis. We also have to take into consideration our characters: where they come from, where they live, what their native language is, what their social or educational background is, etc. Failing to do so, will lead us to a failed story.
Here are some points to consider when writing a dialogue:

• Establish the tone or mood
• Provide exposition or back story
• Reveal character and motivation
• Create immediacy and intimacy (build reader empathy)
• Move the plot forward and/or increase its pace
• Create or add to existing conflict
• Remind the reader of things they may have forgotten
• Foreshadow

When in doubt, we have to ask ourselves if someone we know would say this in a trivial conversation. Let’s not forget that dialogue is the vehicle that moves our story forward. Be careful of the character’s language as this reflects conflict and emotion. Don’t extend the dialogue in such a way that the reader may get bored. Remember: it’s a short story, not a play. Don’t confuse the reader by letting him/her guess who’s talking. Use tags: she says, he asked, I said (but don’t overdo it). Don’t use unnecessary adverbs attached to the tags. This just kills a good dialogue. And last but not least, ask your fellow writers, family, and friends to read your dialogue to see if it resonates with them.

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