Dialog Heavy Stories
I am taking a break from Mark Twain's essay to cover a writing technique issue that was brought up on the Fan BBS under "Annoying things ff writers sometimes do..." This actually goes back to my previous essay on dialog, but I feel that I should cover it again and also go into more depth on stories that are dialog heavy. This essay is specifically talking about stories that depend on dialog and dialog alone.
What brought this particular essay on was a comment from one of the people on the BBS that is almost three years old now. "I've been trying to read this one story, but the person has written a three way conversation but not made it clear who is speaking, so it's been damn near impossible to read." This is the main problem with dialog heavy stories, particularly the ones that have more then two characters speaking. Writers do not indicate who is speaking and the writer becomes confused as to who is speaking. But is this problem something that is limited to stories with more then two characters, or is it something that is actually a problem with stories with just two characters?
While it isn't as major of an issue, we come down to the fact there are stories out there where the dialog has to be broken up into more then one paragraph because it gets lengthy. I remember reading an online essay once about stories that just use dialog and the person said that the main problem doesn't come from the person not using dialog tags, it comes from the fact the two people speaking don't have two distinct ways of speaking and/or two specific personalities between the two characters. But what does this mean? I mean, there are a lot of people out there who likely don't understand what this means simply because they don't have the background. So... let's explain it in a way people may be able to understand.
Each person has a distinct way of speaking. In this regard they have very specific dialects and patterns to their speech. Now, some people may be thinking that in order to write a story that is dialog heavy that they need to have the two characters speak in different dialects, but I will tell you out right that doesn't solve the problem. It can help solve the problem to some degree if one knows how to use dialects correctly, but... what about when you have two characters with the same dialect? So it's not just about the dialect, its about the personality that comes across because of what the person says. You can have a very sarcastic character and a complete flake. The personality needs to show through.
The issue is that the writer is using basic dialog that adds nothing of merit to the story. For example.
"Hello, my name is cat."
"Hello, my name is dog."
"I like spinach."
"I like zucchini."
Let me ask you this, what does this dialog add to the story? Nothing I tell you. It is so basic it is boring and the reader can easily skim over it and be done within a few minutes. If you do have something profound for the characters to say, it just becomes lost. While I can't guarantee this example is that much better, it does give more depth to the story.
"It's a nice day out today, isn't it dog?"
"Yes... I would like to play Frisbee with you cat, but you have no hands. So what shall we do?"
"We could try getting owner to help us out, but he happens to be out of the house today. Me gads, why don't we play in the bathroom again. I like messing with that soft fluffy thing."
"No... no, no! The owner got mad at me and me alone the last time that occurred."
There is a logical reason for using only dialog in your story. The conversation is important. Half of the conversations that go on in dialog heavy stories for fanfiction honestly aren't anywhere near as important as the writer wants to think. They do though think that the conversations they have happen to be important, but in reality they are some of the most mundane things to read.
And the reason people gush praise over them? They're easy to skim and you don't have to be bothered to pay attention to them.