Archive for December, 2010

As I said in an earlier post, literary fiction is a different beast altogether when it comes to dialogue. This is one of my favorite quotes regarding the use of dialogue in literary fiction:

“The use of dialogue in fiction seems to be one of the few things about which a fairly definite rule may be laid down. It should be reserved for the culminating moments, and regarded as the spray into which the great wave of narrative breaks in curving toward the watcher on the shore. This lifting and scattering of the wave, the coruscation of the spray, even the mere material sight of the page broken into short, uneven paragraphs, all help to reinforce the contrast between such climaxes and the smooth effaced gliding of the narrative intervals; and the contrast enhances that sense of the passage of time for the producing of which the writer has to depend on his intervening narration. Thus the sparing use of dialogue not only serves to emphasize the crises of a tale, but to give it as a whole a greater effect of continuous development.”

—Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction

The reason I bring it up again here is that I want to share a list of dialogue techniques taught by Karen Joy Fowler at that same Writer’s Retreat in Maui. You may know her as the author of “The Jane Austen Book Club,” but while that book had a more populist appeal, much of her fiction is quite literary.

While her aim with dialogue is more literary, most (if not all) of her techniques are as effective in genre fiction and some may reflect what we’ve already discussed here. I’ll begin that list tomorrow, so stay tuned…


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