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Monday, November 11, 2019

Too Much Dialogue

     Film and television have convinced too many writers that heaps of dialogue make novels more like movies and therefore good. This is an amateur's fantasy, and it has induced some writers to surrender the few advantages they have over cinematic storytelling.

     The movie maker is stuck with what the camera can see and the microphone can hear. You have more freedom. You can summarize situations. You can forthrightly give us people's histories. You can concentrate ten years into ten words. You can move anywhere you like outside real time. You can tell us--just tell us--what people are thinking and feeling.

     Yes, abundant dialogue can lighten a story, make it more readable and sparkle with wonders. But it is pitiably inadequate for what it is not suited to do. Exposition, for example: the "five w's"--the who, what, when, where, and why of a given situation. Forcing this information into a visual background through performance and dialogue is cumbersome stuff.

Stephen Koch, Writer's Workshop, 2003 Book

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