Coffee Break: Dialogue

Welcome to second instalment of Coffee Break. In this instalment the main focus will be looking at how dialogue works within prose and what we can do to make our dialogue clearer and flow with ease.

Structuring Dialogue

Many of us sometimes question whether when a new person speaks, we should start a new line. Admittedly this should really be happening but sometimes, when we get lost in our character’s minds it can be tricky to decipher who is really speaking. I have recently read a novel by Ruth Ware who uses the confusion of her dialogue to give the reader a hint that the narrator might not be who they say they are (Review can be found here). This further highlights how the structure of dialogue can be confusing, but can be used to complement your plot.

“Try to make a break in your dialogue every six lines”

Chris Thurgar-Dawson

This quote was given to me by my lecturer at Teesside University who always used this as a rule of thumb. He explained how sometimes the reader needs to see a little bit of description whilst dialogue is still taking place. Consider this: Would you watch a play if the characters didn’t move and just read their lines? Would you even consider this a play at all? I know I wouldn’t. The reader can find out a lot about your characters in these descriptions. It could be that your character is saying one thing but their actions are saying something completely different.

Try this

When you are structuring your own dialogue, try to create a new line every time another character talks. By doing this your dialogue will be clear for the reader. Once you have your dialogue in your work clear on the page, go through the dialogue and add a little description every 6 lines. Again this will give your readers something else to consider and might sprinkle more depth to your existing characters.

Accents and Dialects

Sometimes including these within your work can add depths to your characters and give your readers a sense of purpose of where they are from and their upbringing. The important element to this however is making sure that your readers can still understand every detail. For example, where I live people love to eat Parmos. However if not everyone knows what a Parmo is then the concept of using this within language is lost.

Round of applause for anyone who does know what a Parmo is – they’re great.

Try this

Write a brief piece of dialogue about two people that get talking in a queue in the airport. These people can be from opposite places (ie. someone from Newcastle and someone from Cornwall) or you could have two people who are different ages (one could be in their teens and another could be an elderly man/woman). When you are writing this dialogue, try to think of their accent and how their perceptions of the world will come into play in their discussion.

Please let me know how you get on with these writing prompts, as I am interested to see what you have come up with! The next instalment of Coffee Break will involve a different writing focus but until then, sit back, enjoy a coffee and get writing!

The Little Book of Clarity

The Little Book of Clarity by Jamie Smart

Capstone £9.99, USA $16.00, CAN $19.00

‘Imagine what you could achieve if you had a clear head.’

It is amazing how a very simple sentence can instantly get your mind running over the possibilities. Less stress, quicker results and better results for that matter. After reading this sentence on the blurb, I was instantly intrigued. I originally stumbled upon this book by accident at Waterstones. Although The Little Book of Clarity is considered as a self-help book, Jamie Smart explains how his book is different to other self-help books. ‘Most business and personal development books aim at giving you the things to think, change and do so you “act” in a certain way to get the results you want.’ Smart explains this concept to having a cold appose to acting like you have one. Acting like you have a cold is hard and at times, unconvincing.  However, ‘when you catch a cold, the symptoms emerge effortlessly because they’re real. This book is designed so that you can “catch” an understanding that results in the “symptoms” of increasing clarity, resilience and peace of mind.’ Therefore because everyone already has clarity, the results of the book will come naturally.

At first I was a little skeptical too. How can this book know my way of thinking? After reflecting onIMG_2543 my university grades, commenting that I lacked clarity, I decided to give it a go. I can honestly say that this was one of the best decisions I had made. As I read the book I could feel the ‘a-ha’ moments appearing more regularly. After reading the first part of the book I decided to edit some of my essays for university. When I looked back at them I was confused. How had I wrote such rubbish! I could not believe that I could not understand my previous trail of thought. The changes however didn’t stop there. I started to realise that I didn’t comfort eat anymore. I learnt the difference between association happiness with an object, in this circumstance, food.

Each chapter contains a thought exercise or experiment for the reader to partake in. This really helps with understanding the process of this book and I would recommend doing these exercises, before pursuing with the next chapter. Although The Little Book of Clarity, is as it suggests, little, it does not scrape on content. Each chapter also has a web link for additional material incase the reader may want a deeper understanding. Furthermore the book is also available as an e-book. It truly is as handy as it suggests. This is the first time that I have reviewed a non-fiction book and a self-help book at that, which suggests how useful I found this book. So to any students that may have been in my situation, or to anyone who wants to get better results and peace of mind. I urge you to read this book. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.