you present your dialogue can go a long way toward
by D. J. Herda
Dialogue, to misquote Mark Twain, is greatly exaggerated. It's desirable and even necessary to most stories; yet, setting it up in the wrong format can take a devastating toll on the reader. Take this example:
Now, that's quite a bit of quoted dialogue to throw at a reader. It's so much, in fact, that it ends up sounding rambling, disjointed, and unnatural. Also, interspersing various expository sentences for clarity creates a sense of confusion within the reader. Is this part of what Mary is saying, or is it something the author added?
Sure, readers want dialogue. They crave to know what a character said in the character's own words. But there's a better way of using long blocks of dialogue effectively. One way is to break up those blocks into shorter, more easily assimilated sections, such as in this example.
Do you get the point? By breaking up a long, rambling block of dialogue, you can make the scene move along more quickly and more naturally.
But what of those times when you don't want to break the dialogue down, when you don't want to add various asides and responses from another person? Well, why not place the dialogue into italics, as in this example:
By placing the long block of dialogue in indented italics, you accomplish the same thing as you did previously but in a format that's easier to read and less confusing for the reader to follow.
Dialogue? It's mighty tasty stuff in nearly any work of fiction. But knowing how to use it so that the reader finds it a helpful tool--and not a major stumbling block to the story's flow--can make all the difference in the world.