|This topic sheet was originally
devised for the Exciting
Plot Writing course. There is a table of links
to other teaching resources towards the bottom of this page.
Most writers prefer the work of writing to that of conceptualisation.
Whilst it may be intellectually very satisfying to conceptualise
a plot by working at helicopter level, such work can be slow and
even tedious because it is often more analytical than creative.
Writing, by contrast, is predominantly creative. There is much
potential for excitement in the fact that a single unexpected
word falling onto the page can be the entry point to an unforeseen
universe of thought. In truly creative writing, characters are
not constrained (or at least not knowingly constrained) by "the
big picture". They are free to behave unexpectedly, often
surprising themselves as much as they surprise their creators.
If the task of writing, then, is good "therapy" for
the writer who feels bowed down by analytical processes, the writing
of dialogue is the most powerful therapy of all. Whereas the writing
of straight narrative, such as paragraphs of descriptive text,
causes the writer to enter the mind of the story-teller, the writing
of dialogue requires two or more minds. Accordingly, the writer
is never free to pursue one character's line of thought without
interference from another. It is this constant interplay that
makes dialogue such a fruitful source of creative inspiration.
When using dialogue as a plot development tool, it is important
to remember that the quality of one's creativity is more important
than the quality of the dialogue itself. In other words, it doesn't
matter if the dialogue is unconvincing, inconclusive or even incoherent
as long as opens up new vistas.This topic sheet is not, therefore,
to be taken as a guide to writing good dialogue.
Having said that, the creative potential of the dialogue, whether
written or improvised, may be enhanced by observing a few of the
basic rules that provide for good dialogue, as follows:
- Each character should be reasonably clearly defined, with
some clear objectives to be achieved in the course of the dialogue.
- There must be some degree of conflict between the respective
- No character should be allowed to speak for long before being
interrupted by another.
- Characters should always listen and respond to others unless
they have good reason to do otherwise.