Tangled Conversations

Have you ever had one of those conversations that starts at point A, aimed for point B, but instead of taking the direct route it meanders its way through C, D, X, J, and Y before finally finding its way back to the original topic?  Sometimes the conversation gets so convoluted that it won’t ever find its way back around!  Here’s an example:

A: “Do you want to go somewhere to get lunch?”
B: “That might be possible.  Let me see what I have going on this afternoon.”
A: “Oh, we have that staff meeting at two, right?  I can’t believe we’re reviewing the dress code again.”
B: “We have to!  Haven’t you seen what Lacy’s been wearing lately?”
A: “Seriously!  She did have some really cute shoes on the other day, though.”
B: “I forgot to tell you, I found this great website!  Really good deals on shoes, and some of them are super cute.”
A: “Oooh, show it to me!”
C: “Hey you two, should we go get some food?”

This is how conversations often work in real life, but dialog in books and movies is much more straightforward.  Dialog rarely exists simply for the sake of having people talk; it is there to convey information, be it knowledge, character relationships, or plot advancement.  Often we as authors are advised to include less dialog, to focus on the description and the action and the story.  It’s true that a scene with only dialog gets bogged down and boring, even hard to read, but in real life conversations are the lifeblood of most relationships.   We talk to our friends, chat and gossip and make plans.  It behooves us as authors to find a balance between descriptions and dialog, between conversations to convey information and conversations to develop relationships between characters.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. deshipley
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 10:55:18

    Used well, I prefer dialogue to description. A book where people don’t talk to each other enough, or where what verbal exchanges they share have been too obviously pared down to an “clearly advance the plot or shut-up” script, takes much of the relational fun out of it for me. I second your call for balance.


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