Friday, November 30, 2012

Stagnant Dialogue

Why do I use "stagnant" for dialogue, but not "dull," or "inactive," or "liveless"?  Because as you can imagine what happens to a pool of stagnant water--it does not flow, and worse, it stinks. As you can see, stagnant dialogue is dull, inactive, and liveless, and worse, it stifles the scene, not to mention moving the whole story forward.

Dialogue frustrated me the most when I was at graduate school learning how to write plays. as you know, dialogue is the essence, the most important building block, of a play. It took me lots of time and energy to read well-established playwrights' work, especially those who were praised for their snappy dialogue. At the time I didn't quite get what it meant. Now I fully understand what it is.

In novels, dialogue plays an important part, too. If the dialogue is stagnant, the scene will become dull and eventually will drag the story down; and you know what the reader will do when this happens--she will close the book and never return to it. Well, you will probably say, wait a minute, there are various factors that make the reader stop reading the book. True. Here is my point: every element in a novel has to be heeded. If you read a page full of talking heads whose speeches do not go anywhere, will you continue to read the novel? I won't.