SCENE 26: All Dialogue Scenes


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All Dialogue Scenes? Not Really

What if you’re one of those writers who like to develop the conflict in dialogue. Great. It’s a popular technique these days. But it’s very rare to really see a scene with pure dialogue and nothing else. Instead, you’ll need to add at least some of these elements.

  • Attributions. We still need to know who is speaking, so you’ll have, “s/he said.”
  • Internal Thoughts. Rarely can you do a whole page of dialogue–especially dialogue fraught with conflict–without some internal thoughts from the main POV character. They need reactions to what is said besides just more words.
  • Beats of Action. These can be small beats, such as looking away or twisting around in a chair, but you can’t leave these out entirely.
  • Tiny bits of description. You’ll still need some bits of description. Try to avoid just adding adverbs to the speech attributions (Ex: he said glumly). Instead, search for great verbs and that one telling detail: He sipped the hot green tea, then sputtered, “How dare you serve me such a nasty brew?”
  • Facial expressions change. With the conflict mostly in dialogue, we’re drawn to the opponent’s face, to see what is registering there. Raising eyebrows, rapid blinking, sucking on teeth, lopsided grin–look for unique ways to describe a face without resorting to summaries such as looked glum, smiled happily, or looked dejected. Specifics are important. Each person’s face is unique and facial expressions in your story should be unique, too.
  • Tangent attitudes. Send each character into the story with an attitude and make sure these attitudes are at a tangent to each other. They will be in harmony on some things, but fighting on other issues, the ones that matter to your story. Never allow a character to go into a scene without a strong attitude, especially when the main conflict is in dialogue.

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