Okay so, my follow up post to this will be a two part short story. Where my previous short ‘Eddy Grant and the Afterlife’ was a sneak preview into how I like to add dark humour into the way I write, the next short is far from funny.
In my current novel; still in its early days, there are a couple of chapters that, although written in third person, a single character has a majority share of dialogue. I had never written anything like this before that wasn’t in first person and so wanted to try it out first in a short story that compliments what I’m trying to reach.
Agatha Christie was one of the masters at long dialogue, in her closing chapters the detective would identify the murderer and then go on to explain to all parties how they came to the conclusion. The key is in the grammatical structure; when paragraphing it is best not to close speech quotation marks, but re-open at the start of another paragraph. For example:
“… Jack Knightly was a kind old soul, nothing like his early days.
“ It was a long summer in nineteen sixty seven when I first laid eyes on Jack. Working construction at the new ‘Meadow Lake’ estate, he would often pop in for refreshment, but always drank alone.”
Just because one person is speaking in a room doesn’t mean to say you can’t break up the speech. It’s about building a picture for the reader, where is the character? Describe the scenery around them sure, but don’t go into too much detail, it needs to be subtle enough that the reader barely notices you’ve even broken the speech. The character moves, unless he or she is standing like a beefeater. So why not break up dialogue with movements, or better yet, combine the two.
“…and so Mr Knowling wasn’t perhaps to know, Mrs Knowling was in fact in two places at once.”
Detective Murry ran his finger along the Oak shelf of the fireplace.
“Spotless! You might say?…
One short sentence to break up speech and you’ve not only got a pause in real time dialogue, you’ve got a walking talking character in a room with a fireplace.
Dialogue has been far and between the hardest part of writing for me. I’ve always been a descriptive writer, but that’s not to say I’ve been put off. My advice to anyone who struggles with writing dialogue is observation. People watch. Ride a bus all day long if that helps and listen to others conversations, you won’t believe the content you will pick up just by taking out those head phones on your ride into work.
I hope you enjoy the two part short and would love to hear if it worked for you.
“A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom me.”
– Truman Capote
– Part One of my latest short story will be up and available to view tomorrow evening.