A recent article by novelist and poet John L’Heurex in the Wall Street Journal recommends reading Hemingway’s stories, “Hills Like White Elephants” to learn great dialogue.  Why?  It’s almost completely told in dialogue!

As L’Heurex states:  ” . . . dialogue is not conversation . . . it is much more efficient and believable than real conversation.”

After you’ve written your story, go back through your dialogue and see that you’ve chosen the best to represent your characters.  If you’ve written their conversation that means nothing special to the story, cut it.  Make sure their words crackle with tension or show their character. 

As L’Heurex says:  “The tone of a comment or the choice of words or the hesitation with which something is said can indicate that beneath the spoken words there is a feeling very different from what the words seem to express.” 

And unless you’re channeling Hemingway, I wouldn’t recommend writing a story in complete dialogue.  Try a balance of narration, dialogue and action to show your character’s motivation, growth and desire. 

Writing Prompt:   1.  Write a scene where two characters talk about one thing while really discussing a deeper problem. This problem comes out at the end of the scene.

2.  In the book you are reading now, study the writer’s dialogue.  Which passages do you like best?  Why? 

3.  Go to a coffee shop, a school cafeteria, or sit in a restaurant and listen in on conversations.  Jot down lines of dialogue you like.  Later choose one or more lines to begin a story.



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