Friday, January 23, 2015

Abundance of Dialogue in Short Fiction


When it comes to this writing element in short and long fiction, in general: I'm a fan. Ever since practicing for specific dialogue only contest on a writing site, I've often put a fair amount of talking in my stories, in particular in first drafts and during NaNoWriMo cause it's now the easiest for me to do quick with little worry of end result. I struggle to get much description and at times with action, but boy can my characters talk.

There can be benefits to the chatter, however. Dialogue has definite uses and many stories would not be complete without some (though it is possible to write a short story without dialogue, for sure). It can allow characters to provide information to each other and the reader without coming off as too much of a tell from the writer.  There are times when the right bit of dialogue in a moment, the right phrase or saying can help set the tone, pacing or even conflict. The way the speech is done and word choice can also be useful in showing character.

It can also be used to help setup a scene/story. All one has to say is: "We need to talk" and a moment is created with much potential. There is the anticipation and internal thoughts that occur when the character is preparing for the talk, no matter which pov is being used at the time. Much potential exists when it comes to dialogue.

However, it can reach a certain point, where the talking might become too much. At times, in particular with short fiction, if much is taking place in dialogue only, there might be other things missed. Pacing is affected along with distraction and uncertainty as the reader tries to see the whole story. Depending on the story, this could mean that too much dialogue was used.

Yep. I said it. Too much dialogue.

Is that even possible? Honestly, even as a fan of characters who talk, there are times when there is too much dialogue in a story. It is possible.

Most of the time this experience is with unpublished work as I spend a fair amount of time on a writing web site. However, it's possible to see this in published work as well because opinions will vary. There are times when I'll read a story on here and while it has potential, I will struggle because much of the story will be done in dialogue. I'm not saying that can't work, however, it can also work against the story in some cases. While at times, characters talking can help with the show versus tell aspect, when taken too far it becomes the characters telling, and it's easy enough to notice. The reader might end up distracted by all the chatter or feel as if they missed something important because other aspects of story telling are lacking. And in short fiction, word count does limit what can be shown to the reader in the given time frame.

Balance is a difficult task to achieve because it will vary with every single story but it's something we should all work on as writers. Plus, the dramatic dialogue reveal can be made stronger by also having other aspects such as emotion and enough description to put the reader in the moment even more. Something to consider at least. One story will require more dialogue than another, but trying to determine what is needed is all part of the craft and challenge of writing.

This will be more noticeable in short fiction than novels because there is less space and words used to tell the entire story. All dialogue stories can be successful, but it will depend on the writing and the story being told. On the other hand, a story with half dialogue can feel like the talking takes over the story. Variables. Let the character's talk but in editing the task will be working on reigning things in with the hopes of making the story the best it can become.

What do you think? Can there be too much dialogue?