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24

why such little dialogue?

I get asked all the time by the guy in the mirror “why don’t your stories have much dialogue?”  Such an inquisitive fellow this naked man who greets me most mornings behind the fog left behind by his shower. Given this apparent affection I have for him I will be decent enough to try and answer his question.

Because I hear enough of it in my day-to-day life and think so little of it. I just find it such a poor means of communication. I don’t mean to say that I think the people involved in it are duplicitous, I think that most of the time they are trying to project whatever it is they are feeling at the time in an honest manner, I simply feel that they are unable to capture what is going through their heads with words. Ironically, the broader their vocabulary the more difficult they seem to find it to express themselves.

You might find this odd and perhaps a bit hypocritical given my trade uses the very same words that I seem to find inadequate when spoken aloud but you’d be mostly wrong and only a little right.

Here’s why.

When I’m using the words in my story, before they have reached your eyes, they are as clumsy and ill-prepared to convey the meaning I’m intending as they would be if I spoke them to you. But once they have fallen under the gaze of the reader and been ingested they become completely accurate given that the reader is the one creating the story in his/her head. What I mean to say is that because the story is fiction and is only taking place in the head of the reader then by definition it is 100% spot on. This is a significant difference and can’t be overstated. In ‘real life’ a conversation is held fast to the rule that it must be firmly entrenched in what is real. Hence the ‘real’ in ‘real life’. Any variation, and there will be significant variation, from reality thereby makes the conversation null and void. Each party walks away with 2 distinctly different imaginings of whatever it was they were discussing. It is rare that both can be true at the same time so it follows that spoken words are fraught with the inherent peril that they are both spoken and words.

Now some of you might be thrusting a finger into the air and saying “Aha!” when the thought flits through your noggin that dialogue in a story would be interpreted in the same way as any other words in a story so that would invalidate my dislike of using conversations to move the plots along.

Because you have a point there I will distract you for a moment and hope you forget all about it.

I’ve heard writers write to be understood and I’ve also heard that writers write to understand themselves. Looking back on what I’ve written I find it hard to believe that anyone could understand anything about me other than perhaps the local authorities should keep an eye on me and I certainly don’t feel any closer to figuring myself out. Maybe writers write to purge themselves of stories that would otherwise crash around in their head and annoy them.

Not as romantic but seems a lot more likely.

So we write to get rid of images and ideas, trying to use the same words that ring hollow when we apply them aloud. We wrestle with them the best we can and then turn them over to the hungry eyes and vibrant imaginations of our readers in the hopes that they can make more of them then they really are.

Lance Manion slowly stands and stretches then says “So that’s why I don’t use much dialogue.”

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