Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge: D is for...


For my entries in the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I will be focusing on writing elements that I find important and that I want to incorporate into my work.

Today, the topic is DIALOGUE (I almost chose "Drama" for the letter 'D', but I think dialogue is actually more important, and I'll touch on elements of drama in later letters). 

Yesterday I wrote about how important characterization is to me in my stories.  Well, dialogue is one of the main tools to bring out that characterization.  Think of the ways we interact with the people in our own lives.  We see their actions, feel their touch, perhaps smell their perfume or sweat, and with a select few, maybe even taste their salty skin.  But we mainly listen to them, and hopefully have them listen to us.  The ability to communicate through words is what connects us to each other.  Heck, if you want to get all anthropological about it, it's the whole basis for human culture and society.

So I want to use that power of communication in my stories, and do it in a way that helps bond my readers with my characters.  To pull readers closer, I need my characters' words to have depth.  I want their dialogue to reveal traits about who they on the inside, to give hints about their pasts and their perspectives, and to convey their emotions in both blatant and subtle ways.  But it has to also seem natural and smooth, like people really talking.

That's my goal.

But there's a bonus:  In addition to revealing character, well-written dialogue can also move the plot along, too.  Dialogue can introduce drama, tension, and conflict. It can reveal back-story in a much more compelling way than just dumping it on the reader.  That's because dialogue is something that readers want to keep reading.  Dialogue has immediacy and impact -- readers feels like it is happening in front of them much more so than in dry descriptive passages.  In Elmore Leonard's "Writers on Writing" (also published as his "Ten Rules" book), his tenth rule is "try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip." He sums this up by saying, "I'll bet you don't skip the dialogue."

He's right. 

Thanks for visiting -- see you the rest of this month for more alphabetical fun!

Don't forget to visit HERE to see all the bloggers taking part in this A-to-Z challenge, and try to drop in on as many of them as you can!


Simon Kewin said...

Another great post. Dialogue is very immediate isn't it? As you say, it's easy for the brain to process because we're so used to doing it.

.jessica. said...

Dialogue is my favorite thing to write - sometimes I think I should be writing plays or screenplays, actually. :) What I've really had to work on lately is the whole "conveying their emotions in both blatant and subtle ways." Subtext can be HARD! Sometimes I find that my characters are just laying it all out there and saying everything they're thinking - which is easy to draft, of course, but boring to read. So lately I've been trying to make sure that what they're saying is both interesting and layered. It's a challenge for sure.

Great post!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Chris,

Dropping by from the A-Z.. Nice to meet you.

Dialogue does play a pivotal role in writing and if not done correctly can be quite the bore.

See you around the blogosphere.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

You're right; dialogue is important, and it's one of the things I really enjoy writing. It can also be a buzz-killer, too, if ya know what I mean. Pages and pages of heavy dialect that you have to decipher can kill my interest pretty fast, and the dialogue tags can be groan-worthy at times, too. One book I read had halfway decent dialogue, but her characters never simply SAID anything ... they "smiled" it or "chuckled" it, or "laughed" it. Even when her husband died, she was still smiling her patootie off. Drove me nuts.

Gina said...

Dialogue is at the very center of every good book and it is the thing with which I struggle the most. I want it to be perfect, to move the plot but don't sound out of place, to be natural but not to wander off without purpose, and most of all, I want my characters to each have a special voice. It is for this reason that dialogue is the thing that I revise the most on my drafts and I tweak it and change it until I think it is done to the best of my abilities.

Great post! Thanks for commenting on my blog. =)
From Diary of a Writer in Progress.

Lauren S. said...

I actually chose dialogue as my topic for 'D' as well. :)

I like the Elmore Leonard quote. I agree. While reading, I never skip the dialogue. That's why I always try to start my stories with dialogue.

- Lauren @Word Art

Nicole said...

This is a fantastic theme for the A-Z! I agree that dialogue can make or break a novel.

C.M.Brown said...

Dialogue - an important part of every novel. But, it is vitally important that it is done correctly!

Just became a follower, nice to meet you!


Chris Fries said...

@Simon: Thank you very much for the visit and the comment!

@jessica.: Yeah, it's absolutely a challenge -- It's easy to say in a blog post what I'd LIKE to have happen with my dialogue. It's a whole 'nother matter to acutally write it. ;^) Thanks for the comment!

@Michael: Nice to meet you too! Thank you for the visit and the comment and happy A-to-Zing!

@Susan: Oh yeah, I hear you! Leonard mentioned this in that article, as does Stephen King and a thousand other successful writers. "Said" is invisible. Any other dialog tag just detracts and draws attention to a lazy writer. Make the dialog and description of character action convey whatever emotion you're trying to force with another tag.

@Gina: Absolutely! It takes a lot of hard work to create effortless dialogue, lol! Thanks!

@Lauren: Thank you for the visit and the comment! I appreciate it!

@Nicole: Thanks!

@C.M.: Nice to meet you too! Thanks!