Your dialogue is alive!

Scene and dialogue

We have an idea of our characters and set the scene for them; now, they speak and know them through the subtext. Here are some other clues on how to write the dialogue before we go to practice:

  1. Write the scene’s subtext, so the reader understands what the characters are really saying.
  2. Create the proper dialogue for that particular scene (is it staged in a church, a park, or a prison?).
  3. Express your character’s inner thoughts, but don’t overuse this trick. Everything, from how the character speaks to how strong its mimic is, is vital to deliver a message, a subtext.

Well, now let’s take some dialogues from some stories. The first one is an extract from The city, a short story I published some time ago. We are in a newspaper’s office, under the ground and two characters are confronting themselves. On one side is a curious journalist, a woman who wants to uncover the truth behind some mysterious killings. In contrast, on the other side, an old journalist reacts unusually.

She finally arrived in the basement and found Benito seated as always under his large lamp, his dirty hair over his face.

<<Hi, Benito!>>

The former tax attorney raised his eyes, nodded subtly to Anita and returned to his paper, moving his head like a big, old turtle.

Anita cleared her throat to attract attention, at the same time adjusting her jacket. Anita never noticed how cold that basement was.

<< I’m so sorry, Benito, I need only some information. It happened to you to find an ad… how to say it? Peculiar?>>

This time the eyes of the old tax attorney lit up with a strange, unusual light. He answered without raising his face.

<<No, not at all. Nothing strange.>>

He said, pursing the thin wrinkle at the side of his mouth. It was similar to a smile, for whom had a chance to learn how to read his emotions.

<<But…still…all right, don’t worry. I will check tomorrow, have a good night.>>

Murmured Anita, going up the stairs again without receiving any answer. She couldn’t guess how many volumes are written about hate, how many cathedrals build over the repressed resentment.

Dialogue, by Daniele Frau

Benito first is like a silent, harmless old turtle, but the reader can see a change in a couple of lines. When the right chord is played, his expressions change, he produces a sort of smile, a dark wrinkle. Anita is sure about herself, but suddenly she starts doubting her intuitions. We can understand it from how she speaks; her thoughts aren’t straight, and she doesn’t want to say something out loud. She can sense something isn’t right, but she doesn’t have proof. In the last scene, her intuitions will prove correct.

The extract I showed you is from a short story, and it’s crucial here to be precise; we need to be fast, we cannot indulge too much. Think about the scene you’re writing. Keep in mind the settings, the subtext and who your characters are, then give some life to it with mimics, sounds, and colors.


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