Great Dialogue

I’ve been studying my writing books as I edit The Enchanted Locket and wanted to share some essentials to writing great dialogue from the book, Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.

Dialogue is another form of character action in fictional stories. It must be essential to the story with three goals in mind: advance the plot, reveal the characters, and reflect the theme of your story.

To advance the plot, dialogue reveals important information for the story, such as background, exposition, or help us understand what’s happening in a scene. An example of this is:

“Bill,” Sheila said. “What are you doing here? I thought you were going to be in Baltimore.”
“We have some unfinished business, sweetheart.”

We know from this exchange that as far as Sheila was concerned, Bill was supposed to be in Baltimore, and he has something on his mind that he wants to discuss that may be terrible for her.

Dialogue reveals both character and character relationships by the way people talk. One character may talk in casual and short, clipped sentences, while another character speaks in a refined, formal manner.

Dialogue illuminates theme such as the simple life of the hobbits made them much less tempted to use the evil ring and man’s desire for power in the epic tale, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. All of the nine men who took Sauron’s rings desired power and were the easiest to to seduce and corrupt to the evil of the ring.

It comes from one character to another character
gives a good example of what not to write:

Ted stood there.

 “Oh hello, Ted, our family doctor from Baltimore,” Mary said. “Please come in.”

 Ted walked through the door.

 “Mary,” Ted said, “I’m so glad you were home here on Mockingbird Lane.”

 “I am too, Ted. I am comforted that you’re here. Having a doctor who is six feet, four inches and in good shape, but even better knows what he’s talking about, is a wonderful thing for a forty-year-old woman in crisis to have visit her.”

The author is attempting to slip information to the readers by hitting them over the head with it. It’s so bad you can’t help but snicker at it. While dialogue is an excellent way to impart information, it must be written from one the view point of one character to another.

Which books have you been moved with dialogue? Do you have any favorites you wish to share?


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