In the first set of exercises, I opened the floor for characterization and mood setting. If you recall, the author of our study guide explains that there are seven purposes of dialogue:
- Characterizes/reveals motive
- Sets the mood of the story
- Intensifies story conflict
- Creates tension and suspense
- Speeds up scenes
- Adds bits of setting/background
- Communicates the theme
In my opinion, a writer cannot intensify story conflict without creating tension and suspense—they are one in the same. So, for this workshop we’ll go with six purposes. In December, we got some stellar dialogue examples from Flame writers.
RicoChey introduced us to an American subulture and one specific, very intense, incident. “The Point of the Life” manages to be create an utterly moving experience within a stark, matter of fact series of dialogue presented as documented police interviews. Rather than merely intensifying conflict and speeding up the scene, the effect is a violent churning toward the end of a story that reveals surprisingly sympathetic characters and a thought provoking “Code” by which these kids live and die.
Where RicoChey deftly offered up a bare bones (and stunning) short, Jlly_Coppercorn continued an epic sci-fi tale that is beautifully dense with futuristic scenery and intrigue. In her third installment, “Keep Away”, her heroines are introduced to Sylvia, someone with particular insights into the mysteries plaguing these heroines. At first glance, Sylvia’s dialect is troublesome. DON’T BE FOOLED. What Jlly manages here is absolutely astonishing—conflict intensifies, looming danger is amped up a thousand degrees, and another vital character in the story is revealed, simultaneously.
These are two very different stories, two different genres, and two vastly different formats. Nevertheless, both writers successfully integrate conflict, suspense, and just the right pacing.
Intensify Story Conflict/Create Tension & Suspense
Introduce a problem, or a character that reveals a problem, to your protagonist. This problem will change your protagonist’s course. Does this new problem leave him or her with a moral/ethical struggle, or cause him or her to face a long-buried fear? Take us through in 750 words or less.
Speeds Up Scenes
It’s incredibly easy for a writer to get caught up in a step-by-step tour of the world built specifically for beloved characters, but readers are lusting for the heart of that world, that character. In this exercise, take the opportunity to share a “before & after”, if you will. Revise a segment of one of your stories and get right to the heart of the matter.
When you’ve finished your work and are ready for us to read, just paste a link to it in comments below. Questions are welcome.