[Write On Wednesday] Speak, Don’t Tell

Continuing this month’s theme of Show, Don’t Tell, today I want you to focus on how you can do that in dialogue. 

Missed the first prompt on this month’s theme? Find it here.

Couple holding hands, image
Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

The Prompt

Write a story set in a particular time or place and use dialogue to show us where we are, rather than telling us.

Suggested scenario: two characters who know each other well, but one is keeping a secret.

Tips

Don’t simply have characters say “In olden days people didn’t even drive electric cars” to show that we’re in the future. Look at this example from “The Era” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

We’re in HowItWas class

“Well,” Mr Harper said, twisting is ugly body towards us. “You should shut your mouth because you’re a youth-teen who doesn’t know sh*t about Sh*t and I’m a full-middler who’s been teaching this stuff for more years than I’m proud of.”

The Era, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

You KNOW we’re not in a modern day school, right? The attitudes, the name of the class, the way description of ages…so much “show” and very little “tell”, even though we literally have characters telling each other stuff!

Or in this story when the main character has seen a photograph of her deceased mother in a museum and calls her dad to ask about it.

“She was a looker, wasn’t she? What is it, some kind of—do they call it street photography?”

“No,” I said. I described in euphemism what was occurring int he photo.

“There’s been some mistake,” my father answered, finally, resolutely. “That’s your eyes playing tricks on you.”

Natural Light, Kathleen Alcott

Watch how the father goes from open and generous to shut-down and in denial, without the author have to tell us any of that.

Or in this one, what do you infer about the setting, just from the dialogue?

“Y’all put that gator right back where you found him or I’ll pepper your asses with 177s.”

Hellion, Julia Elliot

Pay attention to how you can use dialogue to tell us things other that what the character mean to tell us.

If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.

Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!



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