In the comments section to my previous writing tip on DIALOGUE, some readers asked for examples of the different types of dialogue. Here they are, taken from the excellent book called “Writing Dialogue” by Tom Chiarella:
Excerpt from a conversation between a radio talk show host and a listener [Pg 23-26].
“Who’s next? Gil on the car phone. What’s shakin’, Gil?”
“You’re on the JOC.”
“Am I on?”
“Not for long, Gil, the way we’re going. This is supposed to be entertainment.”
As Chiarella points out, the radio show host is the active presence in the conversation. He directs the conversation to force the listener, Gil, into speaking.
Excerpt from three people in a restaurant [Pg 31-32].
1. I need a beer. Could I have a beer.
2. I saw Marnie today.
1. Beer, please.
3. Where did you see her?
1. You know. By the fire station.
3. No kidding.
1. Her hair has grown.
3. I would imagine. How do you know?
1. I’m not blind.
2. Are you eating?
The conversation meanders across several topics, with random comments being made by other speakers. This type of dialogue most closely resembles real conversation.
Excerpt from Anton Chekov’s “The Lady With the Pet Dog” [Pg 27 – 29].
Already he was tormented by a strong desire to share his memories with someone. But, in his home it was impossible to talk of love, and he had no one to talk to outside;… And what was there to talk about? He hadn’t loved then, had he? Had there been anything beautiful, poetical, edifying or simply interesting in his relations with Anna Sergeyevna? …
One evening, coming out of the physician’s club with an official with whom he had been playing cards, he could not resist saying:
“If you only knew what a fascinating woman I became acquainted with at Yalta!”
The official got his sledge and was driving away, but turned suddenly and shouted:
“What is it?”
“You were right this evening: the sturgeon was a bit high.”
Those words, so commonplace, for some reason moved Gurov to indignation, and struck him as degrading and unclean. What savage manner, what mugs! What stupid nights, what dull humdrum days! Frenzied gambling, gluttony, drunkenness, continual talk always about the same things! Futile pursuits and conversations always about the same topics take up the better part of one’s time, the better part of one’s strength, and in the end there is left a life clipped and wingless, an absurd mess, and there is no escaping or getting away from it – just as though one were in a prison.
In this example, just as Dmitri is about to reveal the high passion in his heart, Chekov uses interpolated dialogue to create a moment of inner clarity. In the commonplace reality of the dialogue about an overripe fish dinner, Dmitri has an epiphany about the ordinariness of his life. In the narrative, Chekov strips Dmitri’s life to its dull essence and what remains unsaid is that this woman is merely his attempt to escape the boredom of a life he knows he cannot escape.
Excerpt from a lunch between a young girl, her erstwhile boyfriend and his father [Pg 34-35].
“Holy smoke,” I said, to be polite. In truth, I thought that was a pretty good bargain. Suppose he botched a liposuction or misaligned an implant? If I were an insurance company I would not have insured [him] for any amount.
He went on to say that some fathers, himself and Ronald Reagan included had a lot at stake…“My heart aches for the President,” he said.
“Excuse me,” I said. I wanted seconds before they wheeled the roast beef away. It was already three o’clock, and the steamboat round was carved down the middle like a saddle. The waiter in charge of slicing meat was standing over by the aquarium with two other waiters. I waited politely by the meat, plate in hand, but they were engaged in an argument, and a partially melted seahorse made of ice stood between me and them. They didn’t notice me.
In this scene, dialogue is used to lead the reader into specific details in the restaurant, as observed by the protagonist, and helps create a setting that emphasises the father’s dialogue for the inflated egotism it is (the partially melted seahorse implies faded glory).
Each of these examples shows that, irrespective of the type used, expertly crafted dialogue can add an extra dimension to your story and your characters. Which dialogue type do you use most often in your writing?