richard harland's writing tips

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The Elements

(Action, Setting, Dialogue, Thinking Inside)

 

 

Other Elements Topics

 

1.Action

2.Setting

4.Thinking Inside

 

 

 

 

 

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index

 

3. Dialogue

 

iii) QUESTIONS

 

Here’s a cheap trick. If your dialogue lies flat on the page and refuses to perk up, try turning statements into questions. For example:bart and homer

A: ‘I wanted to see Mrs Hallam.’
B: ‘She’s not in. She’s gone to the supermarket.’
A: ‘I’ll go look for her there.’
B: ‘She’ll be back in half an hour.’
A: ‘Okay, I’ll wait for her here, then.’

—becomes—

A: ‘Is Mrs Hallam in?’
B: ‘No. You want her? She went to the supermarket.’
A: ‘Maybe I should go look for her there?’
B: ‘What’s the rush? She’ll be back in half an hour.’
A: ‘You think I should wait for her here?’
B: ‘Why not?’

That’s not the world’s most brilliant example, neither for flatness nor perking up. Still, there’s surely more back-and-forth bounce in the second version.

When we write prose, we write in statements—and the habit often sticks when we write dialogue. But listen to a real-life conversation, and it’s full of questions (along with interjections, commands, etc.) Even tag questions, as when we add ‘you know?’ at the end of a perfectly self-sufficient assertion—inviting a response, keeping the ball rolling. Increasing the number of questions doesn’t necessarily produce good dialogue, but it can be the first stage in overcoming the common disease of statement-itis.

 

 

OTHER DIALOGUE TOPICS

 

(i) VIRTUES OF DIALOGUE

(ii) INTERACTIVITY

(iv) SWAPPING CONTENT

v) ADDING SPEAKERS

(vi) NAMING SPEAKERS

 

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Copyright note: all written material on this website is copyright
1997 - 2010 Richard Harland.