The pianist, Yerevan, Armenia, http://www.carolineallen.com
Here’s a trick for writing dynamic dialogue. A client and I were recently creating dialogue between a husband and wife who’ve known each other for years. How can you capture the subtlety, the subtext of the relationship? How can you not over-write it, not state the obvious? How do you capture the familiarity?
I use this in writing workshops. It’s an exercise called: Dialogue: A Stream of Consciousness Exercise.
First, write out in a stream of consciousness way a dialogue between a husband and wife, a couple who’ve been together for at least a decade, a couple with a lot of history between them. State everything out loud. Write it long and wordy. Get everything and I mean everything onto the page.
Now look at what you’ve written. Find the most compelling lines and leave the rest. Let there be great leaps between sentences, ideas and thoughts, that the reader has to fill in. Readers love to make intellectual leaps; unprofessional writing explains everything to the reader. Professionals know how to leave out a lot of information. The final dialogue will leave a great deal unsaid, but on a subconscious level the reader will sense the words, the ideas, the concepts you’ve cut out. Here’s an example off the top of my head. I wrote this in two minutes; imagine what you could do with dialogue like this if you spent hours on it.
Wife: Did you get the eggs. You always forget. I can remind you and remind you…
Husband: No. I worked 17 hours, without lunch. I forgot them. Get off my back.
Wife: Well, there’s no breakfast for you tomorrow, or for me for that matter. It’s like your job is more important than me. I can’t stand this.
Husband: Neither can I, lady. Neither can I. I’ll eat a banana. Does that make you happy?
The edited version might look like this:
Wife: I can remind and remind you…
Husband: I worked 17 hours!
Wife. There’s no breakfast then.
Husband: I’ll eat a banana. Does that make you happy?
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