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A Few Thoughts on Dialogue and stuff

July 17, 2012
Posted at 7:58 am

Okay, so I'm letting Dee's story simmer on a back burner and while I do I'm reading other people's efforts.

And I apologize in advance if someone out there recognizes this and takes offense, but this is the kind of stuff that'll make me drop a story before I've read more than a page, and I see a LOT of it on SOL. Out of kindness I don't even score stories like this.

What's wrong with this dialogue?

"I think you deserve a break. You have all been working non-stop since the first truck arrived. It's not going to rain tonight. Whatever remains out here can be moved inside in the morning."

"Yes, we are all very tired. I never realized how much work is involved in moving residences."

Do people really talk like that? Tell the truth -- "moving residences"? They're not "moving residences." They're moving themselves into a new residence, and what else would they be moving into but a residence? That last word is worse than superfluous.

Now honestly, how's this instead?

"You deserve a break. You've been working non-stop since the first truck arrived. It's not going to rain, what's left can be moved in in the morning. I'll help."

"Yes, we're exhausted. I never realized how much work it is to move."

Isn't that better, more realistic, and doesn't it make him seem like a nice guy as well?

And how about this exposition?

I sat with them for some time, answering their questions about the area and about the schools as best I could, considering I had not had any children in the schools. John is fifteen; his sister born just ten months later, just turned fourteen last week. They are both very excited about entering high school in the fall. They were very nearly equally excited about their mother's new job with one of the newest employers in town. "New house, new job, new town--finally it's starting to come together," John said, almost reluctantly but obviously quite thankfully. I didn't pry.

There are a lot of extra words that add nothing and actually suck the life out of the writing. Try to hear the dialogue, think the exposition. While all of this may be grammatically correct, it is dull, dull, dull.

Also, exposition itself tends to be a drag. A few words of crisp dialogue can illuminate the same thing much more brightly.

"I've got a new job," Mrs. Larson said, "and the kids are both excited about starting a new school."

Think about it.

And won't you all be glad when I get back to work on Dee instead of picking on someone else here?