Hi! How Are You? I’m fine! Good, Good. So, What’s New?
Using dialog to as filler. Letting prose do the heavy lifting.
Dialog is the gas to your story. It’s what makes the characters come to life. And characters are the story. Without them, we have nothing engaging to hold the reader for 400 pages.
Dialog is created to tell the story. It is not every day communication.
Dialog is not used to show the reader the protagonist is a nice Christian by saying “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” Show they are a Christian by the journey they take and decisions they make.
Dialog isn’t a place holder for storytelling prose.
I was recently reading a novel where the author told a lot of the story from the internal thoughts of the protagonist. She carried her story well, but dialog seemed to be placeholders. If the heroine saw her love interests, it went like this:
John came out of the house. “Hi, how are you?”
“I’m good,” I said.
Then we were right back into internal story telling. Granted, sometimes “Hi, how are you works.” Like, after the hero and heroine have just had a fight and walked away from each other to cool off.
OR, You can use the dialog to show the feelings and thoughts of the characters. How can you make it a bit more dynamic.
Let’s redo our example:
John came out of the house. “I’m sorry about the other night… I wasn’t thinking. Then I got busy…”
“It’s okay. Look, I’m only here for a few weeks.” I didn’t expect to find true love.
See? The dialog tells us more. Gives the characters more to react to and a little internal thought makes a nice side. Deepens the emotion.
Dialog does the heavy lifting of storytelling. It’s the protagonist and secondary characters who speak and act. Think of a play. Unless the characters talk, we have no idea what’s going on. Unless, we observe their actions. Kissing. Hugging. Dancing. Fighting. Sleeping. Cooking.
Dialog v. Prose
Dialog shows us the characters.
Dialog tells us what they are thinking and feeling.
Dialog reveals heart and character.
Dialog moves the story forward.
Prose connects the dialog with the action.
Prose delivers some of the emotion.
Prose delivers thoughts that can’t be said out loud.
Prose paints the setting, story world and the five senses.
Prose is key to telling the story. But prose should NOT do the heavy lifting of dialog.
A reader should never have to wade through “How?’ “What?” “Hi.” “I’m sorry,” dialog while the prose does all the work. A reader should never learn critical back story information in prose. Again, hint at it, set it up. But let the protagonist say it.
Rule: “Tell the story between the quotes.”
Workshop it: Go over your WIP. Is your dialog doing the heavy lifting of storytelling?