I’ve spent the last two weeks (the school holidays) reading and rewriting my draft of Absorbed so here comes writing tip #548: In fiction there’s prose and dialogue. Dialogue is the stuff that’s normally found in speech marks – “you know, these things”. Dialogue can be used for all sorts of reasons and I sometimes fall into the trap of using it merely to move the action along and to give information to the reader about what is happening (remember – the plot) but I shouldn’t and so I spend a lot of time rewriting it (the last two weeks). Think of a play – there’s only dialogue (okay there are stage directions but the audience doesn’t hear them) and so what is said is really important. Everything about a character has to be shown in a play by what they say (or don’t say) and so it should be in novels to. Behind each line of what a character says there must be a clear motivation – why has Brooklyn said that? Why has James replied that way? Motivation – remember it, write it in big letters on a post-it and stick it to your computer screen.
There’s another rule too, which I’ve borrowed from film scripts – get in late and get out fast. In other words, in a scene, start the action when something is happening – forget about them opening the door to get into the room and then discussing the weather. Instead start with the second line of their argument. That’s what makes dialogue come alive.