...Dialogue advances narrative; quotes delay it.
Today I am featuring another chapter tidbit from Roy Peter Clark's book,
"Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer," published by Little, Brown and Company. You can find a copy here.
While quotes provide information or explanation, dialogue thickens the plot. The quote may be heard, but dialogue is overheard. The writer who uses dialogue transports us to a place and time where we get to experience the events described in the story.
Roy goes on to give an example:
The skillful writer can use both dialogue and quotes to create different effects in the same story, as in this example from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"It looked like two planes were fighting, Mom," Mark Kessler, 6, of Wynnewood, told his mother, Gail, after she raced to the school.
The boy had just witnessed the midair collision of a plane and a helicopter, and accident that dropped deadly wreckage atop an elementary school playground. We've already seen another passage from the same story:
"It was one horrible thing to watch," said Helen Amadio, who was walking near her Hampden Avenue home when the crash occurred. "It exploded like a bomb. Black smoke just poured."
Helen Amadio offers us a true quote, spoken directly to the reporter. Notice the difference between that quote and the implied dialogue between the young boy and his mother. The six-year-old describes the scene to his frantic mom. In other words, the dialogue puts us on the scene where we can overhear the characters in action.
Mr. Clark's last words of advice:
Leave out the part readers tend to skip; make room for the parts they can't resist.
Here is one exercise from Roy's WORKSHOP:
- Develop your ear for dialogue. With a notebook in hand, sit in a public space, such as a mall of an airport lounge. Eavesdrop on nearby conversations and jot down some notes on what it would take to capture that speech in a story.
A road trip is in sight for our family, so, there will be no "Writing Tools" posts for two weeks. BUT, I will be posting photos from our "Early American History" tour of the Middle Atlantic States.