A Dialog with Story: On Dialog

Story: Here we go again.

Me: What’s wrong now?

Story: Your dialog. People don’t talk that way.

Me: Well, I can’t write it the way people really talk, either. Have you ever listened to how people talk? They hem and haw and start and stop…you try writing a story like that and see how fast it gets rejected. Or thrown across a room by a frustrated reader.

Story: Very true.

Me: So what’s wrong?

Story: This.

Me: Huh?

Story: This. The conversation we’re having now. You don’t see it, do you?

Me: No, but I have the sneaking suspicion you are going to enlighten me.

Story: There, you did it again.

Me: Did WHAT again?

Story: Avoided the point of the dialog we are supposed to be having. Ran on without getting to the point.

Me: What do you mean?

Story: Dialog in a story isn’t only words with quotation marks and attribution. There has to be a point to it. Even if the point is pointlessness, if that makes any sense. Dialog has to have an emotional underpinning, or advance the story in some fashion, in order for it to work. Just writing lines of dialog that don’t focus on a particular thing or advance the story weakens the story, weakens me, until the structure of the story collapses. Dialog is tough, make no mistake about it. Some stories are all dialog. They have to work on a higher level than a story with moderate dialog. But don’t get confused. Even a story without any dialog whatsoever is still carrying on a dialog with the reader. The words you write are interpreted by the reader as a dialog. You are speaking to the reader via the structure of your story and he hears that voice. Pretty important, when you think about it.

Me: Okay, let’s try this again.

Story: All right. I’ll start from the top. Here we go again.

Me: Yes, I know. But I can’t write dialog the way people speak. It would bore the reader.

Story: Then only write dialog that the reader needs, and no more.

Me: Hey, that was fast! It got the point across in a few lines.

Story: And  it also advanced the story through dialog. An added benefit.

Me: Why are you so good to me?

Story: Let’s talk about that….

Tight and concise dialog can advance the story quicker than something more elaborate.

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