Today we’re going to look at editing dialogue. I’m making the assumption that you already know how to write dialogue, have written a fair amount of it, and now need to edit it.
Let’s first look at some common mistakes people make while writing dialogue:
Assuming that every character is going to speak in the same way. We’ve all done it. Monotonous dialogue happens when you write it as though it is still the narrator speaking. If you can remove the dialogue tags and it sounds like a single person having a conversation with himself, you’ll need to edit this.
Using dialogue tags instead of the dialogue itself to express the character’s emotions. Telling readers that a character is angry is far less effective than allowing them a few expletives in their dialogue.
Talking heads. There are instances where reading dialogue is like watching a tennis match. You bounce back…
“You can make your character kind, caring, generous . . . as long as he stays the top toy
As long as certain conditions are met.
After that, all bets are off.”
Thus spake Andrew Stanton, the writer behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E and others.
It’s widely agreed that every character needs a flaw to make them interesting. For Woody, it’s that he’s selfish. But what happens if you make him just selfish? Well, according to an abandoned storyboard, he doesn’t across very well. In fact, you find yourself not liking him at all.
I mean, do you like anybody who’s just selfish?
But that’s the beauty of the story: Woody is a really great guy – as long as he’s the top toy. Do you know anyone like that? Someone you can’t decide whether you like them or not? Someone who’s only nice as long as? The chances are you do. In fact in all probably you are someone like that. There has to be some point past which all bets are off. That’s what makes us human.
That’s what Stanton’s stories teach us.
But what about your stories? Have you made your character likeable and relatable or simply detestable? Are they a person you would like to know or is their flaw just too visible? We’re all trying to hide our flaws. The great moment in your story is when you choose to reveal your character’s flaw.
When will they reach the point where as long as no longer cuts it?
When the fictional world colonises the real world, magic can happen. No, it isn’t just lying; it’s something else entirely.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The way my mind works is, at times, painfully logical. Infuriatingly logical, if you ask friends and family, with no room for compromise unless those compromises are just as logically presented.
Then there are the other times.
For example, when I first announced my crusade for didacticism, my plan was to present first the clearest arguments for, and the clearest examples of, before working my way outwards to show that, at its essence, everything is a lesson. That would have been logical.
Instead I got inspired, and then it didn’t matter what was logical any more, I only knew that I had to show you this thing, and I had to show you why I thought it was great and interesting, and then I had to think about why I found it great and interesting, and in the end it all came back to teaching and learning.
OK, watch it now. It’s long enough to eat with, and a better lunch partner than most.
When Nico grows up and realises he probably didn’t talk to a real whale, he’ll be reminded of a beautiful childhood memory. What he probably won’t realise is that by perpetuating myths of faith, such as Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or [insert preferred fictional figure from your faith tradition here], he’s actually helping himself, and society.
Take justice, for instance – or Justice, if you like. Way back when, such concepts were understood as real things of substance, truly existing somewhere we couldn’t see them. The phenomena we experienced were simply reflections of those forms.
Nowadays, we can believe in concepts without having a potential physical manifestation somewhere; we can believe in Justice for Justice’s sake; we can believe in Goodness for Goodness’ sake.
We can believe in Father Christmas for Father Christmas’ sake.
Because if a child can believe in keeping a pet whale in a fjord in Norway, maybe as adults we can believe that somewhere out there, there really is Truth, and Love, and Justice, and Law, and everything else that lifts us out of our primal instincts.
Where would we be if we didn’t truly, firmly believe in those?
If you’re dynamic, you’re moving. You might be moving forward or you might be moving back, but if you’re not dynamic, you’ll be irrelevant pretty soon.
Julian Stodd’s advice to listen to “stories of dissent” can be adapted to many situations.
When i’m asked “how will we know if an organisation is Socially Dynamic“, my off the cuff answer is that it will be able to hear stories of dissent. Perhaps i should add, “and it will recognise that it can learn from them“. Too often, stories of dissent are driven out of earshot, hidden, or […]
by Lauren Sapala About ten years ago I worked for a startup that launched a social media site for published authors. This was the first place where I really started to meet writers and come in contact with people in the industry. In the spring of 2008 one of the topics being bantered about […]
Welcome to this lesson of David Kummer’s writing course. That’s me, by the way. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, success stories, or just something fun to say, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to talk about anything and everything, especially if that everything has to do with books, basketball, or Chinese food. I am a teenager, after all. So that’s that! Head on down and read what might be the best writing course of your life, but also might be the worst You won’t know until you try!
The word is even pejorative in most literary circles.
I can’t believe it. Especially in light of what I wrote BACK HERE on how much Stephen King’s The Talisman meant to me.
So I decided. I am on a quest to BRING BACK DIDACTICISM. Sure, there are clumsy, awful ways to do it, but there are also wonderful, subtle, genuinely life-changing, genuinely world-changing ways to do it.
If you’re a writer, there’s nothing more worthwhile you can do than teach your readers something real.
Well, no matter what happens, I’m going to push the merits of didacticism until the wheels fall off.