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 😀