Saturday, July 12, 2008

Description vs. dialogue

Often I will review a chapter and realize that almost the entire text is narrative description. Other times I find that four pages of dialogue run on without a break. Exhausting. The trick is balance, and if you ask my wife she will tell you it is not my strong suit in life.

I should reiterate that this is for the editing phase, not first draft. Here are the principals that make sense to me. If you find yourself losing focus on your own material as you read, it is either deadly dull or you are not properly mixing dialogue with description.

No hard rule, but I imagine half a page of talk should include at least one descriptive moment, both to focus the reader and to prevent monotony. Something like the following:

She realized in that moment that he had never revealed a potential for violence, until now.

A short paragraph like this can sharpen the tension that should already be present in your dialogue. The converse is even more true. Long narrative descriptive passages can kill a good chapter by putting the reader to sleep. While you may find all the details from your research for the novel fascinating, you are writing a novel, not a research paper.

The more information you give to the reader through dialogue, or sections of dialogue with descriptive side notes, the less the reader will realize you are teaching them something about the world of your novel. They will more seamlessly receive the data because it was not in the form of wrote regurgitation.

This topic could go on forever, but I hope this at least gives food for thought.

No comments: