It is important to recognize all of the various writing components that can be utilized to develop and enhance characterization. Yet while dialogue is definitely one of these elements, it is often reduced to a lesser status. Here is a typical textbook definition that, via the specific omission of dialogue by name, diminishes this writing medium as a valuable means for crafting characterization:
Characterization is the process of conveying information about characters. Characters are usually presented through their actions, dialect, and thoughts, as well as by description. Characterization can regard a variety of aspects of a character, such as appearance, age, gender, educational level, vocation or occupation, financial status, marital status, social status, cultural background, hobbies, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, ambitions, motivations, personality, etc.
While dialect is mentioned, and this reference certainly indicates the use of dialogue, the insinuation can hardly be described as comprehensive. Perhaps nothing can more adequately place the reader in the mind of a character than the dialogue attributed to that individual. Nor can we learn any more about an environment, whether physical or social, than through reading dialogue.
A Contemporary Novel with 100% Dialogue
For an exercise in excellence in this medium, regardless of one’s liking or not for Stephen King (as a writer, I regard him as a super genius), DELORES CLAIBORNE is an extraordinary example of the use of dialogue to tell a story. And in this instance, the entire text is structured around Delores speaking, and without one word of interior monologue or a single adverb attribute.
Reading Suggestions that Demonstrate Outstanding Dialogue
GOD’S LITTLE ACRE, THE SOUND AND THE FURY, RABBIT RUN and TORTILLA FLAT are all classics that contain extraordinary characterizations portrayed through dialogue. For purely contemporary readers, anything by Elmore Leonard will be of benefit, however, GLITZ may be the book to parse first.
Many find creating good dialogue to be the most arduous aspect of their writing. And it is hard to argue that straight dialogue can be inherent with problems. But when a writer considers dialogue as a means of communicating characterization, then the task can be much less daunting and a perfect way to present a story with greater depth and more definitive focus.
Robert L. Bacon is the Founder of The Perfect Write(TM) theperfectwrite.com
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