Types of Dialogue • DIRECT • Actual quotations • When to use: when the exchange contains the possibility of discovery, decision, or dramatic action • “Nothing is more frustrating to the reader than to be denied the drama of the dialogue.”
Direct Dialogue “I’m running low on ammo! We gotta get out of here!” Tank didn’t take his eye off the target. “There’s extra in my pack!” “Where?” “Pack! Ground! Knees!” Scratch fumbled for the bag, a bullet whizzing past his ear as he dug frantically for a cartridge.
Types of Dialogue • INDIRECT • No actual quotation marks • Gives the feel of actual dialogue without direct quotations • When to use: when one character has to inform another character of something we already know OR when the conversation becomes tedious
Indirect Dialogue “I’m running low on ammo! We gotta get out of here!” Tank didn’t take his eye off the target. “There’s extra in my pack!” “Where?” “Pack! Ground! Knees!” Scratch fumbled for the bag, a bullet whizzing past his ear as he dug frantically for a cartridge. Did he have more ammunition? Nope. He was out. He yelled at Tank, who was too busy shooting to look over his shoulder. He shouted something about extra, but Scratch couldn’t hear him over the gunfire. Tank jabbed at the ground, yelling about his knees. Scratch fumbled for the bag, a bullet whizzing past his ear as he dug frantically for a cartridge.
Types of Dialogue • SUMMARY • Part of the narrative • Condensed • When to use: when one character has to inform another character of something we already know OR when the conversation becomes tedious
Summarized Dialogue “I’m running low on ammo! We gotta get out of here!” Tank didn’t take his eye off the target. “There’s extra in my pack!” “Where?” “Pack! Ground! Knees!” Scratch fumbled for the bag, a bullet whizzing past his ear as he dug frantically for a cartridge. On the battlefield, Tank saved Scratch’s back by directing him to the extra ammunition he’d packed in his bag.
significant detail • Details are the key to making your reader believe your story is real. • Details should be: • DEFINITE: particular, not generic; measurable in some way • CONCRETE: appeals to the senses • SIGNIFICANT: conveys idea or judgment; focus on connotations to lead your reader to certain conclusions • Details must suggest meaning and value (Brown-haired teenage boy of average height vs. our longer descriptions) • Feelings should be demonstrated, not told (“She was sad” vs. “She dabbed her eyes with a tissue, turning her head so Erin wouldn’t see her.)
Active voice • Active Voice: Subject performs action described by verb (“She spilled the milk” vs. “The milk was spilled by her”) • WATCH OUT for linking verbs… they invite dull generalizations and judgments. “Her hair was beautiful” vs. “Her hair gracefully cascaded over her shoulders.” • Active verbs tend to call forth significant details: “She was shocked” TELLS. “She clenched the arm of the chair so hard that her knuckles whitened” SHOWS.
characterization: dialogue • Dialogue must do at least two of these things: • Characterize • Set the scene • Provide exposition • Advance action • Foreshadow • Remind • Reveal past • Dialogue can give us images of a character (“Hey, man, what’s up?” vs. “It is indeed a pleasure to meet you.”) • Dialogue does not have to be grammatically correct: double negatives, mispronunciations, incomplete sentences, etc. are all fair game depending on your character
characterization: dialogue • Text and Subtext • People in extreme emotional states are at their least articulate.
characterization: dialogue • Text and Subtext • In real life, we react more to how something is said than whatis said. Sometimes characters say one thing and mean another. Often, that is the most forceful dialogue. • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJxqi090Yfc (1:00) “Live Long and Prosper”
characterization: dialogue “How are you this morning?” Jane asked brightly, shaking out her umbrella. “Good.” “I heard the rain is supposed to stop by noon, at least… it’s supposed to get to seventy today!” Anna nodded. Jane tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and sat down at Anna’s desk. “Annie, are you okay?” “I’m fine.” “Just morning sickness?” “Yeah.” How does Anna really feel? How can we tell?
characterization: dialogue • Specificity • “Details are the rocks characters throw at each other.” –Stephen Fischer • “You never think of my feelings” vs. “This is the third time you said you’d pick me up, then left me waiting for over an hour!” • You will convey information more naturally if the emphasis is on the speaker’s feelings. • “My brother’s coming at 4:00 with his kids.” • “That idiot brother of mine thinks he can just waltz in at 4 and drop his kids in my lap?” • “I can’t wait until my brother gets here with the kids! 4:00 can’t come soon enough.”
characterization: dialogue • Specificity • The way someone speaks can convey an image: “It is a pleasure to meet you” vs. “Hey, what’s up?” • Sound, word choice, and syntax can tell us: • Where they are from (Coke vs. pop vs. soda) • Education • Attitude • To whom is the character speaking? How they interact with friends will be different than how they interact with parents, religious leaders, bosses, etc.
characterization: dialogue • Format and Style • Thoughts go in italics • This is strange, she thought. I haven’t seen him before. • “Said” is usually adequate; don’t overuse “said,” but don’t ban it from your story. • Tonal dialogue tags (he said, with relish… she added quietly… etc.) should be used sparingly. • If the dialogue doesn’t give us a clue to the manner in which it is said, often an action does better than an adverb. • “We’ll see,” he said curtly. • “We’ll see.” He picked up his hat and strode out.
characterization: dialogue • “Read your dialogue aloud and make sure it is comfortable to the mouth, the breath, and the ear. If not, then it won’t ring true as talk.”