Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Another use for dialogue

If I’m planning a scene and want to see how an interaction between characters would unfold, I write their dialogue in script form.

Stas: Like this?
Jarec: Like that, except minus stage directions.
Stas: But sometimes those are necessary. Or funny.
Jarec: Funny?
Stas: Sure. [Exit, pursued by a bear]

The advantage of this is that it strips away all the description, tones of voice, facial expressions, actions and everything else on which weak dialogue can lean. The conversation, discussion or argument between characters has to carry the scene.

I write the dialogue quickly to get the raw material out before my internal editor can analyze it too much. That also imitates the fast-paced nature of real speech. Plus, I use modern language if that will convey my meaning more easily.

Stas: I’m a microbiologist in a medieval fantasy. It doesn’t get much more modern than that, you know.
Jarec: This is becoming a bit too meta.

If there’s a problem in the story, such as the characters trying to decide how to break into a prison, I might also have them discuss it and come up with suggestions. Usually, though, the script provides a realistic development and denouement to the interaction, and then I can use it as the framework to write the scene.

Stas: Can we go back to the story now?
Jarec: Where’s a bear when you need one?


Hazardgal said...

Always fresh and insightful!

Anonymous said...


What a fantastic way to deal with dialogue. Definitely will keep this in mind.

Angela Ackerman said...

Great idea! You are so inventive.

Marian Perera said...

Thank you, everyone! :)

Anonymous said...

Marian, this is really cool and clever. Aesome way to do it!!

Thanks for the share.

Barbara Martin said...

This is interesting, Marian, and I will try it out later tonight while working on my current WIP.

writtenwyrdd said...

I do this at times, in particular when the speech is complex, as in multiple people talking. It's easier to write who's saying what and get the various bits of narrative/ vital information into their convo before adding all the stage business and description.

Another approach is to take about a troubling scene and separate the dialog from the text, then you can more easily analyze it for logic errors or whatnot.

Another thoughtful post!