Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is Dialogue Really Necessary--part One

Students Chatting

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Take a look at any group at a party. The people who do not speak are ignored. When people open their mouths and speak - it signal that they truly come to life. So dialogue in its simplest form is just a conversation between two or more people. It is just like the chats you hear and take part in every day. Nothing more threatening than that.

Dialogue scares new writers. They will do anything to avoid it – cross the street, move house, change their names. But you cannot run away from it forever. Dialogue must be faced and mastered if you ever hope to make it into print. Have you ever seen a published story that did not contain at least some dialogue? Normally we spend our lives talking to each other and we expect the characters who inhabit the stories we read to do the same. Then why is it so scary?

Correct me if I am wrong that the reason most new writers give is that, deep inside themselves, they are afraid to reproduce conversations that are real; that sound right. So how you would make characters speak like real people in your story? How do you pick up on each person’s individual mannerisms and unique speech patterns? Surely for new writers it is impossible – unless they are trained linguist who have the time to go round tape-recording conversations and analyzing them.

The good news is that you do not have to. In fact, it does not matter if your dialogue is not authentic, as long it sounds as though it might be. Dialogue is not an accurate representation of how people speak. It is a carefully selected series of words uttered by characters that pretend to be real people.

The purpose of dialogue is to put over vital information – about what is happening, how people feel, the tension of the situation or the background of the main characters. It puts over information in much the same way as your descriptions do. It tell the reader important facts and snippets of information he needs to know.

When you look at a story, you will see that the way the characters talk is not realistic at all. There are no ahs and ums, no woolly phrases or sentences that drift off at a tangent, no sentences left unfinished. Everything is clear, quick and clean.

Yes, dialogue is vital. Characters need to speak. They need to be heard – out loud. If you writer do not let your readers hear what the character thinks and feels out of his own mouth, he will remain forever a symbol – not a living, breathing, individual and your reader would not care about him or what happens to him. Dialogue brings the readers closer to the characters. A story without dialogue is boring. You writer is like summarizing only events rather than letting them unfold in real time. You will end up telling instead of showing!

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