This week my Deb sisters have shared great advice and examples for how to write, and how not to write, dialogue. Today, I’m going share the trick I use for making sure that the need for dialogue is even there at all.
As much as we all love to give voice to our characters, in real life we tend to repeat ourselves. We may talk about our weekend to everyone we see. We may share our child’s straight A’s or homerun or college choice with the UPS man, our next door neighbor and every friend we see at the grocery store. And if you’re with friends more than once, you may tell your stories again and again. Even if some of the people in the room have already heard them. You know I’m right.
But you don’t want to do that in your novel!
Well, Deb Amy, you say, what IF a certain character needs to know something? Huh? What about then, eh? Are you telling me that my character does not need to impart information directly to everyone who needs to know it.
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
An example from my forthcoming novel THE GLASS WIVES, is a scene where my protagonist, Evie, is having dinner with her best friends, Beth and Laney, and their husbands. Evie had recently learned information about Nicole—her ex-husband’s young widow—that her friends don’t know. The Evie/Nicole scenes before the dinner party are rife with conversation. There are revelations, admissions, secrets revealed. Is it necessary for Evie to tell her friends everything? Absolutely. But she doesn’t have to take them to tea. What do I mean by that? I mean, there doesn’t have to be a separate, special conversation expressly for the purpose of making sure the reader sees the friends get the coveted news when the reader already knows what’s going on. Having tea would mean the characters would continue to sit at the dinner table (oh yes, the husbands are doing the dishes, folks, it’s fiction, fiction, fiction!) expressly for the purpose of the exchange of vital information. Nothing new revealed. It wouldn’t move the story along because the reader would be yawning, or maybe pushing the book aside, clicking to something new on the ereader. Having tea would mean it’s all for show. And who needs that? No one.
Here’s an excerpt where Evie is contemplating telling her friends everything she has recently learned. Remember, the reader already knows the information. How Evie tells Beth and Laney is less important than the reactions that come later that help keep the story moving.
Nicole had not asked Evie to keep a confidence, and even if she had, Evie owed her nothing. Secrets were a burden and one she was not willing to shoulder for Nicole. She told Beth and Laney everything.
This is not followed by the information, actually it’s the end of a scene. And since I believe in giving my readers a lot of credit to figure out how some things are handled, this works. Later, we see Beth and Laney’s direct reactions to the news we know they received. We didn’t need the dialogue here, even if it would have been fun to have tea with these three friends!
Have you ever experienced one of those tea parties where someone is telling stories you’ve already heard a hundred times? I’ve actually declined invitations where I knew that would happen—and I make sure to have my characters do the same!