At this week’s meeting of the writer’s group, we listened to the latest efforts of Annette, one of the gang’s bright stars. Her story continues to draw all of us in with her descriptive narration. But when it comes to dialog, she’s been having difficulty getting the flow right.
I explained that the conversation between the characters can also help move the story along. It can provide details you haven’t shared in the narrative. It can convey emotions. Dialog can be used to convey attitude and to offer another peek behind the curtain as to your players’ characteristics. And it can be used in the background, add to a subplot.
I’m a dialog junkie. Books that are long on narrative and short on dialog don’t engage me as a reader as much as those that incorporate those conversations. The pacing can be faster or slower, depending on the mood of the scene. Sometimes I’ve even skipped lengthy paragraphs of narration to get to the ‘juicy’ parts where the characters are interacting. As I mentioned this to the group, I noticed several heads bobbing in agreement.
Dialog. Where would we be without it?
Here’s an example of dialog from the Jamie Richmond mystery “Fleeing Beauty”.
“Hello, Mr. Mundy. I was hoping you’d be here.” He took my hand and did the knuckle kiss thing. Beside him was Jocelyn, the exotic beauty with the raven hair. She was wearing a very tight red dress that accentuated her curvaceous figure. Jocelyn offered me a demure smile and nod. I took his arm and guided him around the gallery. Jocelyn followed. Mundy made appreciative remarks after the first couple of pieces. My impatience took over.
“I don’t know whether to be pissed or pleased by your actions, Harry.”
“Perhaps some common ground between the two would be appropriate.”
My Irish temper flared. “You are one crafty son of a bitch.”
“I will deign to take that as a compliment.”
This was not the place to make a scene, so I kept my voice low as I moved him along. “You tagged my phone with some kind of high-tech global positioning device.” I saw him about to speak and waved it away. “Of course, you yourself didn’t do it. Your darling daughter here did.”
Jocelyn leaned forward. “I told you not to underestimate her,” she said in a sing-song voice. In my peripheral vision, I saw her smile and wink at me.
Harrison was unflustered. "That is quite an engaging tale. Please continue. You really are quite resourceful, Jamie.”
“Cut the crap, Harry. I’d like the truth. I think you owe me that much.”
“As you wish. Jocelyn is in fact my daughter.”