Have I said too much?

I am a woman. A woman of many words; just ask my hubby. 🙂  I talk when nervous, excited, agitated, happy…see, you get the idea. As I floundered for a post subject, I started trying to find a writing exercise I read about last year. Where you take a book and highlight the different components of a book: dialogue, action, back story and one more that escapes me. Which brought me to this article about dialogue.

The one thing that has stayed consistent through every critique, every contest entry and every beta read is how well the dialogue is structured. How real it feels and how each character is distinguishable by their dialogue. So, after all that lovely feedback, I find myself writing dialogue. When I get stuck, hey! throw some dialogue in!!  When does it become too much?  There are times when, as the old adage says, silence is golden. Of course, you can’t truly be “silent”. But your character can. They can think up a storm, but they don’t necessarily have to say what they’re thinking.

People usually tell me I’m a good listener. I’m not sure why because I feel like I talk too much. Many days I have been caught in someone’s office doorway, chit chatting when I probably should have found something more constructive to do. But I like interacting with people. I like talking to people.

And it’s a fantastic way to learn how people convey their thoughts, feelings, their back story. Back story is my nemesis. I make the newbie mistake of doing the “big dump” where the poor reader is subjected to the character’s life story all at once. How boring!  I wish I could remember where I see and read all these snippets of helpful insights, but I remember reading somewhere that to avoid the “big dump”, think about what happens when you meet a new person. Say a co-worker. You usually don’t learn everything about them right away. And if you do, you usually loose interest quickly because there’s no mystery (and you’ve probably had your ear chewed off and gotten in trouble for slacking).

But it’s the little bits of conversation where things are learned. Or even a way of moving. A hitch in their gait that tells of a possible injury. The imagination goes wild. Where they in a car accident? Was it a sports injury? Or it is something as mundane as wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes? The less said or revealed kick starts the imagination. Now there is the risk of saying too little and then the reader just ends up confused because there isn’tanyinsight into the character beyond the little dialogue offered.

For me, it’s finding the balance. When to have my characters “shut up” and show what they mean. Ah, the all important show. Heaven knows we don’t want our manuscript to end up like the Handbook for the Recently Deceased.

"This thing reads like stereo instructions!"

What’s your take on dialogue? More or less?


4 thoughts on “Have I said too much?

  1. I LOVE writing dialogue, and when my work is critiqued people always say my dialogue is good.

    I think there’s a fine line….too much dialogue and it reads like a play.

    In short stories I try to aim for 50/50 with dialogue vs description. I’m not sure if that’s right or not though lol


    1. I’m still trying to find that balance. I like Raelyn’s idea of 1/3 action, 1/3 dialogue and 1/3 setting/backstory. I also love writing dialogue. I seem to be able to get more character nuances in that way.

      Thanks for stopping by Vikki

  2. I didn’t see Beetlejuice coming 😆

    It’s funny you brought this up. I was just thinking about the balance of ‘components’ in stories. Kristen Lamb talks about breaking tweets down as 1/3 promo, 1/3 support (retweets), 1/3 conversation and it seems to me the same could be applied to writing. Maybe 1/3 action, 1/3 setting and backstory, 1/3 dialogue.

    A very thought provoking post Mel.

    1. Thanks Raelyn! I’m thinking about that as I do the rewrite. I just finished a short novel where there might have been two or three sentences of dialogue every four or five pages. Hard to get a feel for the characters. Got me thinking. And that line about the ‘stereo instructions’ kept running through my head! 🙂

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