BY Stu Leventhal
Dialog is a literary conversation between two or more characters. It is easy to spot in popular literature such as a novels, short stories or theater scripts because the talking or spoken portions of a writing piece are usually enclosed by quotation marks, those two little slashes (“ “). On stage or in a film, the dialog pertains to all the lines that the actors speak. Authors utilize dialog to serve all kinds of purposes in their compositions. Dialog can be used to ignite drama, add humor or give us a peek inside a character’s mind. Literary dialog is often used to highlight an important point or moment in a piece. Conversations between characters help to explain things of significance to the audience.
Sometimes as authors, we find the dialog we’re writing between our characters is strained and seems to be dragging on and on but we really don’t want to edit the conversation because the info we are revealing to our readers, through this dialog is important for further developing the story. Authors often drive themselves crazy trying to think of a way to keep all of the pertinent info in the conversation, while not letting the talk become so boring or continue too unnaturally long that it becomes unnerving to their readers.
One solution is to simply use one of your characters involved with the dialog scene as a mechanism to say you as author are aware of the long windedness of the dialog but please bear with me. For example; break the long, boring verbatim up by having one of the listeners yawn, roll their eyes, throw in a few “Uh huh..” or uninterested sighs and shrugs. Let the speaker suddenly become annoyed shouting, “Are you listening to me?! Are you even hearing what I am saying?!” This will break a boring spell up by injecting a little over dramatic, humor.
You can also have your listener state outright, flatly, exactly what your reader is probably feeling. For instance:
“Listen, I really don’t feel comfortable talking with you about this. We don’t really know each other like that.”
Your long speaking character can start to cry then apologizes, “I’m sorry. I just have no one else to talk to about this.”
The concerned listener replies. “Okay, okay. Let’s go across the street and get a cup of coffee and you can tell me all about it. Just stop crying!”
Now, you no longer need to cut or revise the strained dialog, which could have resulted in causing you to put off informing some important information that the reader really needs to know at this time in the story.
Having one character skirting the issue like a politician or showing a character doing everything they can to avoid a topic. Will justify to your readers why the other character seems to be taking such a long time to get to the point. When a person keeps changing the subject, we know he’s hiding something. Your readers and the other characters in the story will know he is hiding something too. They will be tuned into trying to figure out what the one deceptive character is trying to conceal and they will assume that the long winded talker is also attempting to uncover the secret by intentionally coming up with ways to keep the conversation going.
When you have an unnaturally long dialog, you need to justify it. In these above ways you are including your reader in the writing process. You are bonding. You are in effect saying, “Hey, I’m aware that I seem to be droning on and on but stay with me, the journey will be worth it.” You are asking their permission to continue to drone, promising something special. And, thus they won’t quit you just yet. They want to stick around for the payoff. You have reassured them that you are very much still in control and you know exactly what you are doing. Now all you have to do is deliver on that promise!