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Innocent Bystander 11/12/09, 03:53
I have a kind of love/hate relationship with dialogue in books. Sometimes authors have a way with it, but most of the time it feels very mechanical. "I have to have these characters saying things in a structured manner to imply they are having a conversation."
As I've started writing in the last year or so (nothing too serious) I've noticed I have a tendency to avoid dialogue that I feel would be boring or wouldn't go anywhere and, instead, replace it with a summary of what was being said. Is this something that seems unreasonable or stupid? When I write this way, there is very little dialogue at all in what I'm writing, at least in the traditional sense.
I'd say that paraphrasing dialogue to "he said this, she said that" is very useful for instance if someone is remembering what was said in the past or when the dialogue takes place in a hurry ("Detective Smith demanded to know where the master of the house was and after a minute of incoherent babbling the servant finally said that he just didn't know." Something like this is nicer to read than what the two people actually said, word by word.) or when nothing of real substance is being said. No one wants to read a page of people discussing what they had for breakfast or how their day went in a story, unless it reveals something about the characters, their relationship, the breakfast, or something.
But as unnatural as dialogue may sound in a story, I find it's easily one of the most interesting elements in it. Throw in all the facial expressions, body language, things that are not said, it's awesome. If all dialogue in any given story was replaced with "They discussed the issue. He thought he was right, she thought he was wrong", the end result would be really impersonal and detached. Then again, if that fits the style (like if the main character is a disconnected The Outsider-type or a super-manly dude who's not big on talking) it might work.
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