Monday Motivation: A meditation on dialogue
Let us consider all the things that dialogue can do:
It enables us to elicit and transmit information: “What’s the time?” “It’s a quarter to four.”
That but information can consist of any one of a series of complex feelings, sensations and intellectual propositions. To name just a few:
- Hungers of various types
- Pain of both a physical and a psychological kind
- Satisfaction on many different levels
- Ecstasy, both profane and spiritual
- Desires expressed in terms of all our physical and psychological appetites
- And declarations about who we are – or at least, who we think we are.
Dialogue is, in short, a useful tool that we and our characters employ to make our way in the world. It provides us with a blunt and honest means of seeking responses and declaring ourselves.
But dialogue also serves a multitude of oblique purposes, and, as often as it is used to reflect and interrogate reality, even more often is it used to dissemble and connive. And so, less obviously, we and our characters use dialogue to
- Create false impressions
- Insult others
- Defend ourselves
- Exert power
- Hint at all of the above without committing ourselves
- Make others laugh
- Make ourselves seem more consequential to others
- Distinguish ourselves from the other seven billion people on the planet.
Dialogue, in short, can be used as a weapon in the propaganda war we wage against our rivals and our competitiors.
In the hands of a skilled writer, dialogue can be by turns poetic, rhythmic, clunky, awkward, elegant, enigmatic, it can be coherent or incoherent, it can be long-winded or pithy, it can tease or satisfy.
Dialogue is the chief means by which character expresses itself.
It’s an essential tool.
Read Jo-Anne’s latest blog: ‘Writing Secrets: Writing takes thought – so look beyond the obvious‘
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