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Notes from "Dialog" by Lewis Turco


  • A Subject is what you are talking about. Example: Love

  • A Theme is what you say about a subject (as a complete sentence). Example: Love is Painful.

  • A Monologue is half a conversation. It's a speech to a character.

  • A Plot is story line of actions and events that serves to exemplify the theme.

Tools and techniques in Stories:

  • Italics for unspoken words.

  • Try not having a narrator as it slows things down.

  • Frame narration helps the reader get the impression of being present when the story is told.

  • Give protagonist a dominant personality trait (courage etc.) and a desire to be, have, do (Goal). Make the antagonist a hinderance in the protagonists' pursuit for the goal.

  • Story can be narrated via the following viewpoints:

    • Orientation: Author narrates or Character narrates.

    • Person: First Person (I), Second Person (You), Third Person (We)

    • Angle: Single (Action of one character is followed), Multiple (Occurs in the presence of multiple characters)

    • Access: Objective (Only narrate action), Subjective (Narrate action and emotion)

  • Mood is created by setting (environment), attitude of the characters and description.

Tips for Dialog:

  • Try NOT using adjectives, adverbs to describe the tone as it gets in the way and reminds the reader that someone else in control.

  • Start from the middle of the situation, 'In media res'.

  • Use dialog for mood setting.

  • Characterize by diction, i.e. speech of the person or speech of another character describing the person.

  • Support the theme in every dialog.

  • Characters reply obliquely, talking about their preoccupation.

  • Characters react to the other dialog, even when not speaking.

  • Dialog should feel like eavesdropping and not composed.

  • Dialog contains

    • Syntax (Objective, subjective or dramatic)

    • Diction (Tone & Style) - high, medium, low.

    • Dialect (prefer standard American)

    • Minimal Slang

  • Vocabulary and idioms can elevate a diction.

  • Break dialog for drama and characterization.

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