Dialogue

Look out for blocks of dialogue. Some people are long-winded and go on a tirade and can't be stopped, and there are some wonderful long speeches in literature, but we're always looking for opportunities to reveal character. To do that, the characters must express themselves—not only to reveal themselves but also to pressure the other characters into doing the same. Also, in a heated exchange, people interrupt and talk over each other rather than taking turns. Even three lines of dialogue in a row can be a block. You need to consider the possibility of each character responding after every line of the other character. Considering it doesn't mean you'll do it, but you're always looking to create every possible opportunity for the characters to express and reveal themselves, realizing that you're never going to find them all. And, always, going too far is good. The more you have to work with, the better. You can always cut back. Here's a dialogue sample:

"I don't want to be your boyfriend anymore. I want to be friends like we were before," he said.

"Friends? We can't be friends. I love you, and you love me. We just made love last night. What's the matter? How could everything change? Tell me," she said.

"Why make it harder than it already is?" he said.

"Because we were meant to be together. You need me. I'm the best thing that ever happened to you. You're going to wreck everything. If you do this, you'll regret it for the rest of your life."

OK, there's something going on here, and we're getting some sense of the characters. I've seen dialogue in print that didn't give us as much as this. But how much more of the characters could we get if each responded after the other's line? A good exercise for you to do right now, before looking at the expanded version, would be to rewrite this little exchange and have each character respond after every line (sentence) of the other. This is a long chapter, and you haven't written for a while, so loosen up and give it a try. Here's a rewritten version:

"I don't want to be your boyfriend anymore." "OK, let's get married." "I want to be friends like we were before." "Friends?"

"Not lovers-just friends."

"We can't be friends anymore."

"Because now I love you, and you love me."

"We made love last night."

"I know, and it was great."

"Then what's this all about?"

"That was sex, not love-for me at least."

"What's the matter?"

"You're my best friend."

"And you're mine. I don't understand."

"I just don't love you."

"How could everything change?"

"Tell me what's wrong," she said.

"Why make it harder than it already is?" he said.

"Because we were meant to be together."

"Nobody's meant to be. That's romantic poppycock."

"You need me."

"As a friend."

"I'm the best thing that ever happened to you." "You're always telling me what's best for me." "You're going to wreck everything." "I can't help it."

"If you do this, you'll regret it for the rest of your life." "I'll take my chances."

There still isn't a lot of direction in this version, but we're getting more of the characters, particularly the man. We still aren't getting as much as we should, because we're not getting into the inner workings of his mind and heart. How to do that was covered in chapter 6 ("The Active Ingredient").

0 0

Post a comment