You’re missing the plot.
Am I? Umm.
Why is Steven acting this way? I just don’t get it.
No worries. Will make him tell Jane about it, and you’ll be in on the secret too. Sorted!
Unless Steven and Jane are cardboard characters and you are weaving a fictitious cardboard universe, do not – I repeat – do not use dialogue to convey information.
It will be, and it will read, fake.
The only times when it’s ok to include plot information in dialogue is if the other character can’t be expected to know that information and there is a very good reason for them requesting it. Otherwise… put your foot down (or pen – I’m not particular on those matters) and find a different way to include pieces of plot or backstory that are important to your narrative. Internal monologue springs to mind, but even there: tread with care. (See – it’s making me rhyme)
Subtlety is key. Remember the “show versus tell” rule.
Some things to be on the lookout for:
- Dialogue is a great way to show the intricacies of our characters’ relationships, their innermost desires and fears. If it is used to convey information about the on-going narrative or backstory instead of doing the aforementioned, then we have a problem. Most of the time the information conveyed would’ve been already known to the characters and it would not be something they would discuss. If that is the case: cut without mercy.
- If we rely on dialogue to tell the reader instead of taking the harder route of showing, then of course the only solution is… well. Work harder at showing and allow dialogue to show the characters’ reaction to current events rather than telling the reader what’s happening.
- Imagine that the reader knows everything you know about the backstory and current events when writing dialogue. This is a great technique for avoiding the trap of “informative” – my preferred term is FAKE – dialogue.
Let’s be honest, as writers we are God-like in our imagined universe. We have unlimited power and control. This desire to control at times will serve us well, but if we’re using dialogue to wield power in order to indulge in our own need to control then we might get ourselves into no amount of trouble.
The only solution to the control-freak within is to give him a good telling-to and make him let go. Instead, allow the characters to take charge for a while.
You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
Happy Chatting, m’ dears 😀
I like to say ridiculous things in my webisodes. Once again nearly the opposite of what you advise. haha.
All in the name of a ridiculous laugh. LoL.
Ah yes… but that is quite different from writing a novel 🙂 Comedic writing has its own rules 🙂 Perhaps you could write a post abut it – what do you say?
I do what I want and have no rules really. Except no porn images. But I will do very blue if I feel like it. haha.
My young follower on twitter does a great cover of ooh la la though. Better than Britney I think.
I hate it when girls fa… Oops, sorry. Different topic I’m sure…
I was so guilty of these writing faux pas in my earlier stories. Plot twists and information always came by way of dialogue or a letter, journal, etc. It’s the same as having too many dream sequences or flashbacks in order to reveal details. It can be hard to avoid, but I absolutely agree with you that it’s a very “fake” feeling. Great post! 🙂
Thank you. t is tough, but I think realising when we’re doing it is key. Once you catch yourself at it, it is much easier to rectify before too much damage is done 🙂
I remember when I first started betaing they would highlight the passages of dialogue with a note “for the reader’s benefit. Unnatural.” I wish I had this post then,
It’s taken me a few years to get all of those nuances figured out, and I’m sure that there is a lot more for me to learn. Hopefully, I have enough of an idea of the worst “crimes” to avoid them 🙂 The learning never stops. Thank you, Nina x
excellent. i had a mentor who pummeled me with “show don’t tell”
Can never say it enough 🙂 It’s something I have to constantly remind myself of when I get overenthusiastic with the telling 🙂
Oh goodness, what a blog you have here. I hope you don’t mind me following.
I will admit I was somewhat confused when I began reading the post, but it was interesting enough to keep me reading. And yeah, you have some wonderful advice to offer. I am somewhat halfway through my first novel and I wish I had read this blog a bunch earlier because it would have been so helpful. I have a tendency to make these mistakes in my writing a l l the time.
Anyway, please feel free to get in contact with me whenever you wish! I am new around here and I have no friends in these nick of the woods.
Hi there and welcome to the WP community 🙂 We’re a friendly bunch so I’m sure you’ll make lots of friends in no time. If you’re after more writing tips then check out my imaginatively named 😉 Writing Tips category. I’m sharing little by little everything I’ve learnt over the years. Hope you’ll find it helpful.
Thanks so much for the response!
You give great advice and I’ll be sure to check out your Tips category.
I’m probably going to have to edit and revise like 90% of my novel now because I can totally see how Ava (my main character) seems like a complete cardboard and fake character. By the way, I’m going to recommend your blog to some of my friends on figment.com (it’s a writing community, if you have not checked it out yet, I highly highly recommend it.)
Ugh sorry, I am spamming your comments section.
No need to apologise, Go Scribbles, you’re welcome to comment any time you like and as much as you want to. I see interaction with others as a key part of blogging so no worries on that count. Thank you for the suggestion – will visit.
And yet how often do we read dialogue like this (or indeed see it crop up in films and on TV)? I have to admit that convincing dialogue has always been something I have struggled to get right. Still, something to work on. Nicely reasoned.
You are quite right. Thank you.
Nice vic! Dialogue is hard to do at the best of times right 😉 Some great pointers you have delivered. 😀
Thank you, Belinda. I love writing dialogue, but it’s so easy to get it wrong. Hoping this will help others to avoid the traps that got me when I first started out 🙂
It is indeed easy to get wrong hey. I am sure your write will help folk 😀
I hope so. 🙂 Thank you, Belinda.
😉 Pleasure Ma’am
Thanks for this! Now I need to rewrite a short story that I finished a few months ago.
So glad it was of help. Best of luck and hope it works out.
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