One Line of Dialogue

NOTE: I had this post sitting in my drafts folder for almost a year, so I figured it was time to bring it out.

THE ACTUAL POST: Dialogue generally makes the pace of a story move along quickly. Any kind of description will most likely slow the pace. The key is to achieve a kind of balance between tons of dialogue and tons of description, otherwise you risk boring yourself as the writer or any potential readers.

A long time ago, I used so much dialogue for one story that I got sick of listening to the characters talk. For my next story, I imposed a limit of only five lines of dialogue per chapter. Being that this story was for NaNoWriMo, the chapters were roughly 1,667 words each.

Because I had put a severe limitation on the dialogue, I felt as though I had to weigh each of my characters’ words and try to make them more significant somehow. So my first line of dialogue was the ominous, “Guess what I found on the Internet, Abbye,” and the last line was, “I have nothing to be afraid of anymore.”

I don’t know if that technique did improve the dialogue itself, but it made me think about how necessary each line is and whether I could go without it, or if the character could show instead of tell what he or she was thinking or feeling. It was a fun experiment to try. Maybe for my next project, I’ll write a story that’s all dialogue with only five lines of description per chapter. That should be fun.

5 thoughts on “One Line of Dialogue

  1. Interesting idea. I once wrote a story of around 1,000 words (I think) completely in dialogue as a challenge. No dialogue tags or anything. And until a few days ago, the first chapter of my next story had no dialogue at all (it has now because I moved some stuff around).

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  2. I was reading somewhere recently how modern novels are generally more dialogue heavy than earlier works. I really think its depends on the type of story you are trying to tell whether dialogue (and lots of it) is appropriate. Right now, in my story, its about 50-50 narrative to dialogue. Some chapters are closer to 75% dialogue where its appropriate. But this is a much more character driven story where dialogue is the important “show” part of the writing.

    In other genres, atmosphere and building tension may be better served through narrative.

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    1. That might be because dialogue reads faster and quickens the pace… and they always say how people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter!

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