Show not tell using dialog

Show not tell using dialog

 

I am listening to an audiobook on writing (Stein on Writing) and within that audio book he talks about how to use dialog to show not tell. He says that there are few different rules to follow :

  • Don’t use made up words or phonetic words to show a characters station. Using phonetic words does not show not tell. It breaks the reader out of the story to sound out words.
  • Instead of telling that a character is a way, show proof that they are that way. For example, instead of saying the character was nervous, show how they fidget. This can be used for emotions in dialog. For example, instead of saying ‘they said with anger’ show how they punched the wall while talking. IMPLYING allows the writer to interact/decipher the story – which draws them in.
  • Be careful on using common phrases, as some common phrases may not be common during the time period your writing.
  • Dialog in real life is boring because it is filled with echo’s / re-phrasing the question / and stall tactics such as “uhhh” and “ummm”. Dialog in books should snap at each line and have minimal words if possible. Each snap reflects a message beneath the words. A disinterested person may ignore the question, a angry person may flip blame with a question, and a passionate person may over explain with lots of positive explanations.
    • For example (Disinterested) “Hello Mr. Marcus. How are you?” “Hi, I am Mr. Marcus”
    • Another example (Angry) “Hello Mr. Marcus. How are you?” “You know damn well how I am.”
    • Another example (Passionate) “Hello Mr. Marcus. How are you?” “I am doing fantastic! I am just having a really great morning, but that may be either the extra sleep I had last night or the extra coffee I just had a moment ago. How are you?”

Writing is an amazing occupation as so much goes into finding the perfect phrase to fit the way a character needs to be shown. I find it interesting that great authors are not flawless on this, but are able to tie these concepts together so quickly that their first draft is mostly there.