Points to Ponder
- Approaches to dialogue over the centuries
- Placement of dialogue and how much
- Beginnings with dialogue
- Subtleties of indenting
- Dialect and slang (see Mark Twain's preface to Huckleberry Finn)
- Punctuation. Yes or No?
- Length and proportion
- Dialogue as exposition
- Use of the dash and ellipsis points
- Use of bold; use of oversize letters
- Speaker attributions
- Use of ly adverb; exceptions regarding sound
- How real is real? Pruning the inessentials: the art of compression
- Rhythm and pacing
- Duffer dialogue. Prune where necessary
- Stripped dialogue. The absence of speech tags
- "Said" as an invisible tag
As I have previously noted (ie. whined about) on the blogs of others, I am jealous of those who seem to make dialogue flow effortlessly and exude a lot of atmosphere. That was always a complaint of my night school instructor regarding my dialogue. I agree and I think that I unconsciously try to avoid using dialogue. I present to you, my friends whose work I admire and whose opinions I trust, an excerpt from my short story "The Inscription". I want to submit this to the newspaper competition over the next couple of days before the contest closes...
I rested on a rock outcrop protruding from the damp grass. The dark clouds hanging over the bay that morning were now lifting; the sun immediately brightened the cemetery and warmed my face. I was startled by a young girl who had walked up behind me. An elfin-faced child, wearing a pink sweater and dark denim pants, clutching a large doll clad in a similar fashion.
"What'ya doing, mister?"
"Reading the grave stones."
"Because I'm trying to learn about my family name."
"I already know my name. It's Emily," she said, extending her hand.
"Nice to meet you." I reached to shake her hand but she quickly withdrew it, twisting her arm behind her back.
"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," she said, twirling the end of her long, red hair with her index finger.
"I understand. That's a very good idea."
"Me and nanny are here to visit poppy. He's dead." She skipped off in the direction of an old woman placing flowers on the white stones of a well-tended grave. Emily tugged on her grandmother's sleeve and whispered in her ear.
Anyway, this is first of only two exchanges of dialogue in the 1200 word story. Do you get a feel for the major male character and the minor female character? The second exchange of dialogue is between the grandmother and the male character where he gets information that helps him in his search for information. Any thought on how to inject more life into these people? All advice would be graciously accepted...