Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Balancing Dialogue with Setting and Reflection

I received a phone call from a writer this morning. She wanted to know if writing a page and a half of material without dialogue was okay. I assured her that it was.


Photo by: veni  markovski, courtesy of Flickr
There is a place for setting. A place for back story. A place to sum up without spelling out every nuance in a conversation. Because, as usual, your story must move forward.

So when do you know when to write dialogue and when to leave it out?

Only you can answer that question. And your readers, of course. And we're talking here about the readers you get before you put your book out there to the world. They may tell you that:
  • Your story drags too much. You need more dialogue. 
  • There is confusion. The story jumps too much from setting to setting and the reader is having a difficult time understanding where they are.
  • You write too much dialogue and not enough setting.
  • Reflection time takes over the story and is always swimming in a circle but never taking the character anywhere.  
Photo by: LaurenFinkelPhotography, courtesy of Flickr
Writing dialogue is a bit like real life situations. In fact, the best dialogue takes a back seat to the dialogue you use in real life and the power it gives you personally to move on. Dialogue peppered with some reflection time and the use of setting intertwined makes for a great balance in your book. As in book reading, balance is also wanted in life (even if we don't get it).

Because dialogue moves the reader along faster in your story than any other writing medium, you want to make sure you use it; but you also want to give the reader pause for reflection, time to take in their immediate surroundings. There's nothing worse than having your characters standing within an empty void. Your readers want to see where they are; breathe in the air if you will. They want to be a part of the story.

We all have writing areas we are stronger at. Mine happens to be dialogue. I struggle with setting and find that when I return to a book I often have to add a bit more. You may do the same with dialogue.

The good news is that in book writing, a writer can go back and re-do what was said or felt or seen--something not usually possible in real life.

And maybe that's the best news.






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