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Scott Lax Blog

Powerful Dialogue as a Great Bordeaux

How important is dialogue in your writing? If it's not very important, you might want to rethink that.

For dialogue to be powerful, it shouldn't sound like actual talk. The old school teacher trick of having students go around and record dialogue isn't necessarily the way to teach students how to write dialogue. Because, as Kingsley Amis said, dialogue is more powerful than actual talk, which can be boring and aimless. Don LeLillo called dialogue "hyperrealistic," as well as "jumpy, edgy and a bit hostile."

Which is all to say that dialogue, like all important elements of good writing, needs to be crafted, not merely parroted. Think of the lines in books and movies that you remember. These are likely not lines you would hear at the checkout counter at the supermarket. They're words that tell a story through dialogue - perhaps the most important weapon in your fiction arsenal. It's not a matter of how much dialogue you use; it's how good the dialogue is that you put on the page.

How much dialogue should you use? Think of dialogue as needing to be more like a great Bordeaux instead of a boxed wine. A glass or two of well-crafted wine can enhance your meal (your story), but a box of rot-gut will just make you (and your readers) sick.  Read More