Sidestepping the Issue

Another week has passed. Time obviously doesn’t wait for anybody. I’ve always been interested in time travel – the ability literally to revisit the past or to take a peek into the future. Theoretically, it can be done, but that’s where it ends. Really, we’re all time travellers. We travel one moment at a time through time. We travel through hours, days, and years. That being said, let’s get to it.

We all know the writing cliche show, don’t tell. One of the best ways I know to show is to use dialogue. But just as we have a tendency to tell too much, we may also have a tendency to allow our character to say too much. Sometimes less is better. Sometimes allowing our character to sidestep an issue is good.

Think about the following conversation between Jim and Tom. Tom has done something stupid and hurtful to Jim. You want to paint Tom as cold and uncaring. It may be to your advantage to allow silence to speak. Let me show you what I mean.

Tom’s actions caused Jim to be visibly upset. “I can’t believe you did that! I can’t believe it! Why, Tom? Why?”

Tom said, “Just let me alone I don’t have to answer you.” Not looking up, he flipped another page in the magazine.

Jim repeated, “Why did you do it? Tell me.”

By this time Tom had enough. “If  you say one more word . . . “ He stood and gazed out the window.

“I hate you for what you’ve done!”

“You’re a jerk, Jim. A real jerk.” Tom turned and walked away. 

Now, let’s remove Tom’s dialogue. Let the silence speak

Tom’s actions caused Jim to be visibly upset. “I can’t believe you did that! I can’t believe it! Why, Tom? Why?”

 Not looking up, he flipped another page in the magazine.

Jim repeated, “Why did you do it? Tell me.”

He stood and gazed out the window.

“I hate you for what you have done.”

Tom turned and walked away.

Experiment with it. Have fun with it. Try it both ways. See what works best. 

Well, time has gone for this week. Imagine that! Let me know what you think in the comments below and I’ll see you later.

WFK

3 thoughts on “Sidestepping the Issue

  1. Hi Bill, I am a heavy dialogue writer, and use it to show, however, someone recently told me it seems to rush the story. I reread some of the stories and I realized he was right. So I add some pauses and maybe going into reflections of the characters, or behaviors, or their thinking, or perhaps a brief explanation.
    This was good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read an article or a comment the other day where someone wanted to write an entire novel using just dialogue. It might be an interesting exercise, but as much as I use dialogue, I can’t imagine writing an entire novel with nothing but dialogue. Good observation.

      Like

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