Whether you’re writing an argument, a love scene, a powwow among sixth graders or scientists in a lab, Writing Dialogue demonstrates how to write dialogue that sounds authentic and original.
Quieting a character vs quieting the narrative
Quieting a character is a matter of tying not ot answer questions with dialogue but with action. There are also ways to quiet one character within the literal dialogue to let another character take over: understanding that no response is sometimes the best response, shifting the focus at the moment we most expect to hear something, avoiding the temptation to be overly explicit, forcing the physical world into play at surprising moments.
Another element of silence is quieting the narrative, a form of stripping your dialogue to the bare bones for the sake of focus or pace. It does not require a quiet setting, merely a setting that drops away for a time, allowing the dialogue to take over.
Filling the silence
Consider moments of silence in your life, moments when two or more people are gathered and no one speaks. To be sure, there are not many of these in the average day. For most of us, there aren’t enough. Waiting at the us stop maybe. The silent prayer in church. The pause before tee-shot.
The silence I’m referring to is not a vacuum. Things happen. You must find ways to fill the silence reliably and convincingly.
The different types of gesture encompass an array of options.
But what fills the empty space when characters go quiet while the scene persists? It’s a bit trite to say that conversation is more than words, but at its core, you’re looking at a series of exchanges, both verbal and physical.
When the words stop, the physical world does not dry up. Cigarettes are offered. Eyes shift. Hands run through hair. Figers tap tabletops. People wave for waiters. Kisses are given.
1. Dramatic gesture
A dramatic gesture is one in which the gesture itself is designed to have meaning that reinforces the human exchange. Sometimes these are simple clichés. A woman stubs her cigarette out in an ashtray after she finishes dumping her boyfriend. And executive swats a fly on his desk as he fires an employee. A boy’s eyes grow shifty as he lies to his father about stealing cars.
It’s not the level of drama that defines the dramatic gesture, it’s the potency. This small moment harkens to the idea of providing and protecting. It’s a sort of communion between the characters, a ritual of forgiveness.
2. Particular gesture
Easier to craft and more useful perhaps is the particular gesture, which involves a movement or action unique to an individual. A woman who touches the top button of her blouse before she speaks. A man who holds both hands out in front of him, fingers pinched together, as he sings.
The beauty of particular gestures is that they are easy to find in the life around your. A human being controls more than language when speaking. Conversation is a matter of balance and direction, muscle control and maners.
3. Incidental gesture
The incidental gesture is useful in turning the dynamic outward toward the setting or circumstance. The grave robber bats the gnats from his face as he scratches the dirt off the top of the coffin. The little boy plugs his ears as the ambulance whips past. The woman quietly returns a nod from across the restaurant.
These sorts of things can be helpful with timing and rhythm. Quite often these gestures are a matter of setting and circumstance.