Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Dialogue and Narrative Writing
With each book, with each short story, we should grow as writers. As I write book 2 in the Daughters of the Potomac Series, 'Beside Two Rivers', I've been pondering what makes a story flow and glow. Dialogue? Narrative? Is it a balance of both? Or is it more dialogue and a sprinkling of narrative?
In her book 'Between the Lines' author Jessica Page Morrell states the following.
A reader's eye is naturally drawn to dialogue because it is staged, action-intensive, and auditory.
More importantly she writes: Rapid-fire dialogue with little or no extraneous information is swift and captivating, and will invigorate any scene. . . snaps and crackles with tension. Reactions, descriptions, and attributions are minimal. Don't create dialogue exchanges where your characters discuss or ponder. Instead, allow them to argue, confront, or engage in a power struggle.
I agree. Except that there are times when your characters will need to have a lighter conversation. Still, this should move the story forward. In 'Beside Two Rivers' my heroine Darcy has arrived at Havendale to meet her grandmother. Naturally the first person she meets is the housekeeper, an old retainer that has served the family for years. I did not want her to be a 'Mrs. Danvers' kind of character. Instead, she is lighthearted and welcomes Darcy warmly.
Their conversation is light, but it is leading up to a more intense conversation between Darcy and her grandmother Madeline.
Darcy untied the ribbon beneath her chin and removed her hat, while the servant took her cloak from off her shoulders. She noticed the look of concern when her eyes ran quickly over her clothing. “I walked a long way,” she said.
“Hmm. From the fork in the road I expect.”
“Yes. I hope I do not look too bedraggled.”
“Well, you’ve had a weary journey, now haven’t you? It’s a long walk from where they left you, so I imagine you are very tried, the brave girl you are to journey all the way from Mary’s land.
“I am. . .a little.”
“We’ve a warm guest room waiting for you. It has a comfortable bed, and I’ll bring up a tray of food.”
“You are very kind. But I’d prefer to see my grandmother right away.”
“Of course, and without delay.”
The dialogue then goes slightly deeper. Questions are asked and Darcy ponders the state of the house, why the downstairs is darker than the upstairs.
Downstairs the walls were paneled with dark oak, but the hallway upstairs held a warmer effect, painted pale yellow with large windows that allowed the light to flood inside. Darcy scanned the paintings on the wall and the pattern the sunlight made across it.
“This floor is very different from downstairs.”
“My mistress had the old panels ripped out after she married Mr. Morgan. . .
A sprinkling of descriptive narrative is enough to give the reader a visual image of the house, the walls, the staircase, and the windows. There is both a gloomy and an uplifting atmosphere, of two places that are complete opposites.
Narrative can build tension and atmosphere. Sprinkle it in with interesting dialogue and the merger of the two becomes one scene that will sweep the reader into the world of your characters and move your story ahead.
So in conclusion, where I have grown while writing this series is in depth of dialogue. I am now 230 plus pages into the manuscript.
What are your views on dialogue and narrative?
Do you prefer to read a novel with a balance of both? Or one more than the other?
Posted by Rita Gerlach at 10:56 AM