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Paula sighed as she glanced at the blank screen. “This introduction on dialogue won’t write itself…” “Meow” said Haldol the cat, while attempting to climb into Paula’s lap for the umpteenth time. “Thank goodness John Yeoman from The Wicked Writing Blog is here to assist writers with great points on dialogue” Paula cheerfully exclaimed! “Meow.” This time Haldol succeeded in climbing into her lap where he settled down purring.
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Why Everything You Think You Know About Dialogue Is Wrong
by John Yeoman
Friday, May 20, 2016
‘Dialogue’ is what happens when two or more people talk to each other. Correct? No. Dialogue is almost any speech act. Consider monologue. The dictionary defines it as a long speech by one person, usually boring. Yet it’s still dialogue.
Why? Somebody is listening and responding, if only to tune it out.
But suppose nobody is listening? Maybe it’s ‘interior monologue’ – a person is thinking privately, by themselves, to themselves.
That’s still dialogue.
How come? When we think, somebody listens. Always.
Don’t they? At least, our alter ego does.
Virtually all forms of speech or thought are dialogue because each speech act implies – to use a stuffy academic term – an ‘interlocutor’. That’s another person or entity, imaginary or not, who is inherent in the act.
I said ‘virtually all forms’. If a radio, unattended, broadcasts a speech in an empty desert is that still dialogue? Probably not (short of a sentient camel). But the theory holds, in principle.
Sorry for that pedantic Definition of Terms. Are you still with me? Then we’re sharing a dialogue! Yes, the theory does work.
How can we use these truisms – boring, I agree – to write better fiction?
Once we realize that ‘dialogue’ is, in essence, almost any speech act we are free to experiment with its forms. Let me show you just ten ways, but there’s no limit to them:
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