A few weeks ago I wrote a note to myself questioning whether I use too much dialog in my writing. Now I'm not referring to what I write in my blog. I'm referring to a novel that I have been stutter-starting on for the last few years and that I have promised myself I would finish by the end of June. Well…at least the first draft.
I like dialog and find it easy to write…I really like to write dialog. The majority of many of my scenes are heavy with dialog. Personally, I find the dialog easy to read…but, I may be prejudiced because I'm the one who wrote them. Ya' think? Anyway, I never realized I used so much dialog, and wondered if that is bad style.
I just finished reading James Patterson's newest novel, The 6th Target, and I noticed he uses a combination of styles. Some of his chapters have no dialog, some have one to three sentences of dialog, and some are virtually all dialog. He really mixes it up, and since most of his chapters are three pages or less his stories just zip right along.
On the other hand, I just started reading Elmore Leonard's new book, Up In Honey's Room, and he has a completely different style. After reading the first few chapters, I noticed that they were almost pure dialog. I spot checked random chapters later in the book and those chapters appear to be almost 100% dialog too. Chapter after chapter after chapter...
I'll have to double check, but I think I read somewhere in one of those "how to" books that Leonard is supposed to be a master of dialog. Personally, I found his dialog hard to read. It could have just been me…it was late at night and I was tired…or maybe not. I guess I should re-read and see if I have the same reaction…
Okay, I did just that. I re-read some chapters and made a decision…I'm shit-canning his book. That's a technical term meaning I'm not going to read it…which is something I very rarely choose to do.
I did the same thing for my novel. I went back and re-read a dozen scenes, and I think there is a good mix of narration and dialog. Yes, several scenes are almost pure dialog but they seem to work, IMHO.
So I guess I'll keep plugging along…June is just around the corner.
We'd make a good team because I am not good at writing dialog - but passable at description and reporting.
I don't mind a lot of dialog as long as it is clear who is saying what. If I have to go back and check whose turn it is to talk, I tend to gloss over it.
I like Patterson a lot. I prefer the Alex Cross stories. I am now reading "Step on a Crack", which introduces a new detective (to me). So far, it is pretty much in his formula.
IMHO, it all depends on style. In my first novel, first draft I didn't have nearly enough dialogue. Critiquers kept telling me, "Show, don't tell. And do it through dialogue!" It made my style stronger and much more readable. But then, I tend to be wordy and my descriptions can be cumbersome. So for me, dialogue helps.
Can there be too much? Sure. But you're going to get different opinions from different readers, and I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this one.
"But, like, I'm an expert, right?" John said.
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