I think this chapter on dialogue was my favorite so far. I absolutely love writing dialogue, so learning a bunch of new tricks and ideas was super helpful. The very first thing the chapter mentions is the idea that connection hinges on dialogue, and I agree completely. Whether it’s in real life, like on a first date, or whether it’s in fiction, dialogue creates a connection between us. It brings the excitement and draws the reader in. When we write dialogue, we need to find a healthy balance between dialogue and narration. This helps to create the perfect story. You can do this by thinking about what you’re writing. The chapter talks about that idea that if you’re writing a moment of real significance, oftentimes the reader will like to be front and center of the action, watching and listening. Use your dialogue to create this scene, as it will help draw your reader in.
In order to create good dialogue, we need to listen to the people around us to get a feel for what real-life dialogue sounds like. However, real-life dialogue can be boring and get boring, so we need to spice it up and add a little dramatized change so our readers are intrigued. When we’re writing, we often use dialogue tags that tell the reader who is saying what. You can get away without using the word said, as many people barely notice it. However, other tags can sound too forced and may draw attention in a bad way. You want to make sure the tag you use fits the story, or if you even need one at all. Along with tags, using physical action and narration along with the dialogue helps your reader to really see the scene and get an idea of the character and feel like they’re there in the scene.
You can also use indirect dialogue to sum up a conversation that would otherwise be extremely tedious. This saves your reader’s time and energy for the good dialogue scenes. You should also think about tension. “Tension between characters will almost always notch up the interest level of your dialogue” (pg. 142). We as humans desire drama and tension, so we should put it in our writing. Subtext can be really good for this, as it allows your reader to not say what they mean, creating tension with other characters, but it allows your reader to see what’s going on and know what your character means.
I have always been a writer that struggles with the whole idea of explaining/saying versus showing. I’m always wrestling with whether I’m being descriptive enough or being too descriptive. Somehow, it’s hard for me to write natural dialogue that isn’t too boring. So, seeing the dialogue as a scene kind of helps me. The book says that a writer should save summarization for parts where information needs to be given efficiently and when parts of a story need to be fleshed out and explained. Dialogue/scenes in a story are used for the most important moments in the story. This makes so much sense because the reader should be the closest to the situations in which they should pay the most attention to.
Dialog, as stated in the chapter, is an essential piece to writing, and is what helps make the reader feel like they’re truly there. I didn’t realize that second meanings in writings were called subtexts, so reading that section was somewhat surprising because it turned out that I already knew about it.
I remember when I first started writing stories that more times than not I would have a lot of pointless conversations in my work. A majority of this was attributed to pointless scenes in general, but it’s interesting to compare summary versus scene. I also wasn’t aware of the term indirect dialog. In reading it, it didn’t feel like anything new, but having a name to put on it as well as having a clear definition of what it is and how it functions helped me better understand its uses. I imagine using this newfound information could help me cut through painstakingly long conversations to help get to the major point (if the dialog is necessary at all).
Another notable section, towards the end, was that of differing tones and speech patterns. I have generally good understanding of how to create different personalities, but in terms of speech patterns, my characters would probably come across very similar. I tend to like using more complex sentence structures and elegant word choice, no matter who the character is- unless it’s someone who obvious shouldn’t talk that way, like a child.
I remember reading this chapter previously and it still remains as interesting and relevant to writing fiction. Because I rarely use dialogue in my writing, mostly because I tend to write academic essays and less fiction (except for creative writing) it is sometimes difficult to create dialogue that feels “real.” Amend states that “narration tends to have a dense feel, whereas dialogue—which reads quickly and offers a lot of white space—has a zippier feel…” (127). This is not only accurate, but it is an important distinction between the two devices as the use of one or the other will change how what you are writing reads. Another interesting point made is the difference between a summary and a scene. Summary, Amend says, is like “telling,” while scene is like “showing.” This reminds me of something my middle school teacher would say: that it is important to show and not tell when writing.
Dialogue should leave the reader with a more appreciative view of what has transpired. It doesn’t have “to show a cataclysmic moment for the characters, but the reader should come away from the dialogue scene with an increased understanding of the story” (129). It is therefore important to have the right amount of dialogue to summary so as to make the flow in a way which does not just read well but is read fluidly and with scenes playing out as images in the reader’s head. It is also important, when constructing effective dialogue, to capitalize on misunderstanding that are so common among actual speech. Sometimes, if the character reveals all that is complex about what they are thinking or feeling they are unable to effectively grip the reader and it becomes more like a summary and less like dialogue
Ch. 6 – Dialogue
I was excited to read the dialogue chapter because it is something I enjoy very much in a story, but often find myself struggling greatly trying to make it entertaining, and authentic for the storyline and characters. The beginning of this chapter puts it perfectly for me. The example of how important dialogue is to a story was shown perfectly in the “War and Peace” example. While the descriptions of the settings and factual evidence told by Tolstoy is very amazing, people are drawn to that story for the dialogue and the interactions between the two main characters. Dialogue, for me, is something I like to try and incorporate into my writing heavily, but I often struggle with it. When I read, I find it most entertaining and enjoyable when I am reading dialogue interactions between characters involving the story, opposed to a narrator telling the reader everything they need to know. The section on the illusion of reality is what I struggle with most when writing dialogue. I appreciated the part on the comparison between olden fiction writing, with this sense of drama and theatrics in the dialogue, to the modern approach of realism when conversing (130). I like how this author discusses the incorporation of slang and realistic phrasing of things into dialogue. Another tactic they discuss in this chapter to build the dialogue in the story is the stage directions section. I never thought about how the use of action within the dialogue can help build the emotion the writer is going for, as well as break up a long section of only dialogue which can be hard to follow along. They use great examples (pg. 136) about how some action can elevate the dialogue into completely different meanings, with the input of a heavy breathe or quivering in the lips for example.
The Illusion of reality. One thing I found really interesting about this chapter was this section in particular. I believe that when writing dialogue, everybody thinks to articulate what they are trying to express in a way that sounds realistic to the time period in which their writing takes place. One thing that I never thought of, however, is to avoid making a conversation TOO realistic, including all of the bumps and side tracks that come from interacting with other people. The author states in this chapter that it is all about finding a balance, though you could convey an exact and real and messy dialogue if it enhances the thematic ideas or characters in your story, nor should you have a four year old describing the grand canyon as an art critic would a fine painting. But again, only if these things are relevant to your story.
Another thing I found interesting and helpful in this chapter was the author’s explanation about using tag alternatives to the classic “said” when writing your dialogue. They say that though it may be tempting to throw in a “proclaimed” or an “uttered” that this can actually impact the dialogue and thus your story in a negative way and then it wont read naturally. The author continues to explain that exclamation marks can also lead to another undesired effect. While you may be trying to use it to convey some sort of emotion, be it excitement, anger, etc., more often than not it can come off sounding like an overdramatic teenagers text message.
Journal #10: Dialogue is my favorite part to write in a scene. I find that the best way to read through dialogue to see if it sounds realistic is to read it outloud. Being able to hear the accent and candace of someone’s voice goes a long way in deciding what sounds realistic on someone. The way that someone speaks is very indicative of the character and we can learn a lot about them from it. I recently wrote the Flashbacking exercise for this class, and the page limit unfortunately stopped me from writing in any dialogue. That exercise was definitely the one I enjoyed the least and often found myself wanting to add dialogue instead of just talking at the audience for the whole time.
This chapter of GWW was immensely useful, as most of my knowledge regarding dialogue had stemmed from reading the dialogue and copying it (usually unsuccessfully). Most useful, perhaps, was the note that “said” can be repeated as many times as possible and even though it might feel horribly redundant to the writer, the reader doesn’t care at all (!). Additionally, the eradication of unnecessary language was an extremely useful tool, as I feel that might have been one of my writing pitfalls which had slowed down my ability to write effective dialogue. One of the topics that was covered in the same section, was the ability for dialogue to express underlying tensions/plot points that could not be eloquently articulated by the writing alone. This clarifies why my writing, often, seemed to be a bit flat— as I had avoided dialogue pretty much entirely— and how I could deepen the relationships of my characters through the effective use of dialogue. Furthermore, this chapter inspired to me to include dialogue with quotation marks and without in this week’s exercise to imply a difference in time— which helped me understand how dialogue can be a useful tool to represent the present and to indicate the pacing of the story/ground the reader in the time-space continuum of the story.
I found this chapter helped me a lot, dialogue has always been difficult to write in a way that feels natural. the section discussing summary and scene i found to be especially useful as i am used to writing fiction in the technical sense of world building so trying to translate that into a short story with characters and non formal talking can be quite the struggle but this chapter helped me to really separate the two different writing styles. in addition to that the section about making the dialogue feel real by researching and semi immersing your self if writing of a similar location/ time as yours is set in seemed very smart to me.
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