dialog layering

So here’s a short scene in dialog. It doesn’t work, but it could. It needs layering. You could put in dialog tags, observations about facial expressions from the opposite POV, body language, anything that brings it to life. There’s no rhythm here because it’s all presented in one big clump, which is something else that needs to be addressed.

Of course you also have to decide for yourself what’s really going on here, if these people are being playful with each other or if there’s some underlying feud. I haven’t even given you names, because that makes a big difference in how you might proceed. This could be a couple, or an elderly father and a son, or two sisters watching their mother, or old friends observing one of their aunts. The crucial thing to remember is that if this scene is to stay in the story, it has to actually (1) move the characterizations along or (2) contribute something important to the tension and plotting.

If this exercise really takes your fancy and you want to post it on the discussion board, please feel free to do so. Maybe you’ll get a conversation going.

“She wanders around the garden like an old witch.”
“A good bitch or a bad bitch?”
“I wish you’d do something. That’s not what I had in mind.”
“So bossy so early in the morning. I wonder why I never noticed that before–”
“Before what?”
“Oh look, she’s digging a hole. I wonder what that’s for. Treasure to bury?”
“You’re not taking this seriously. I wish you’d do something, I really do.”
“Hand me the telephone, I’ll alert the media.”
“You know there’s a word for this behavior, don’t you? It’s not a very nice word, either.”
“I do so love word games. Let me guess.”

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One Reply to “dialog layering”

  1. I have nothing of note to say except that I really enjoy reading your comments on writing in general and the way are working on your writing abilities for us all to see (and with such a nice sense of humor…).

    I was doing some “studying” on dialog myself, and could never figure out why I had issues with the way my writing flowed until I took the body language into better consideration. Then I started to think I over-anlayzed it. It is a fine balance to make your point without overstating it.

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