Dialogue Is Not Idiot Talk

I checked out the book How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein from the library a week or so ago. As I flipped through it, I came across the chapter on dialogue. He says some things that opened (reopened?) my eyes, as well as some things that made me laugh.

For example:

Dialogue has to make us interested, curious, tense, or laugh. At its best, it has a liveliness that makes the words seem to jump from the page straight into our bloodstream, like adrenaline. Readers enjoy dialogue. I’ve never heard anyone say that they enjoyed a transcript of recorded speech. If you wander around a crowded mall these days, much of what you might overhear is idiot talk. People won’t buy a novel to hear idiot talk. They get that free from relatives, friends, and strangers.

He goes on to explain better how to make dialogue better, and not sound like idiot talk.

One of the things he stresses most is how is should virtually always express conflict, whether open or veiled.

Anyway, its given me a lot to think about in my writing, and one more thing to work on.

2 thoughts on “Dialogue Is Not Idiot Talk

  1. That’s a terrific gem. I’ve read something similar recently, but I’ll be darned if I can remember where or when. I think it was AdvancedFictionWriting’s article on dialog, actually. It gave me pause. I had to really consider, because the whole of Ghost Hunters started as an exercise in dialog. I hear from more people than not it’s the dialog that’s most successful, and if anything needs work, it’s the narrative.

    Interesting how different folks get different ideas about how things ought to work, y’know?

    Great insights. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree.

    I think dialogue is probably the most important part of a story. It’s one of the best ways to “show, not tell” what is going on. Good dialogue most always expresses some sort of inner or outer conflict.

    Nice post. Thanks.

    Suzanne Lieurance
    The Working Writer’s Coach
    “When Your Pen Won’t Budge, Read The Morning Nudge”

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