Have you ever written a short story without any dialog? It’s not easy. It’s especially hard to show point of view, and to stay in that character’s POV. But imagine you are writing a scene where Special Forces are sneaking up on some very scary people in an isolated village. No radio, no speaking. Everything done with hand signals. And you would be in a world of trouble if you forgot the signs or sneezed.
That’s how important dialog is. You can use it to add humor to your book, to add subtext, and to stay firmly in one POV. But there is a lot more and the more you work on it, the better your dialog will become.
Back in March, I was fortunate enough to Zoom with my local chapter of RWA to hear Jane Porter talk about Tight Dialog. She’s pretty amazing. Check out her schedule to see if she will be holding workshops in your area. The key point is that Dialog is part of everything else and carries the story. Limit use of tags, adjectives, and thinking about what was said. That can happen in a sequel scene.
The most interesting bit of information that can make or break your story and your characters is this: Women use 10 times as many words as men. The strong, silent type is just a typical male. I know I like to include a lot of details when I am talking to my husband, and he usually cuts me off and lists the information he needs to understand what I am telling him. Letting me finish my tale would have given him all the details he needed, plus more!
You’ve already learned Desmond Morris’s Stages of Intimacy. Your characters are touching their hair while making eye contact. Maybe they are old friends, maybe they hug and stay close to one another. She will tell him everything she always wanted to say. But when she finishes, expecting him to reply in kind, he will stare at her, try to think of something to say, then ask how her sister is. Or something else that will make our girl shake her head.
Perhaps, instead, she wants to tell him how dangerous it is to be dealing with the people he has been hanging around with. She explains and urges him to be careful, to get away from that path, to stop being reckless. Again, he’ll give her his blank stare and brush off her concerns. “Don’t worry, I can handle myself.” But she can’t help worrying about him. In a way, that’s her job. She can go on for another 20 minutes, trying to get through to him. But it won’t work then. He may think about what she said later on. That may change his mind.
Give your characters lots of emotions, layer the anger, the worry, the sadness all in one glimpse of the character. Before you know it, they will be in each other’s arms and doing more than talking! Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.