We’ve been focusing on dialogue – from realistic to stylized.
Today we’re going to work on the thorny issue of dialogue attribution. Should you say “he said” or “he whispered seductively”?
How about neither?
Write a story that is dialogue-heavy but features no dialogue attributions at all.
You know what this looks like, right? Picture a fast-paced thriller where the protagonist and his boss are talking about the probability that the volcano will explode, or the Russians will invade. The conversation pings back and forth, snaking its way down the page without a ‘he said’ in sight. Or maybe it’s a romance where, one hopes, it’ll be pretty clear who’s saying what and to whom. But you never know…
- This is easiest to do if only two people are involved in an exchange at a time and if it doesn’t go on too long.
- It is possible to make it clear who is speaking by having very strong characters (one curt, one longwinded; one snarky, one sweet)
How long can you make the exchange run before it becomes hopelessly confusing and you have to insert a stage direction?
(Remember, this is just a fun exercise.)