Monday, March 2, 2009

Dialogue or Description, What's Your Forte'? By Morgan Mandel

I find it easy to create dialogue, but difficult to provide descriptions. Maybe that's because I'm in my characters' heads and concentrating on solving their problems and not on describing what they look like or where they are.

My characters and I already know those things. Unfortunately, the reader doesn't. Because of that, I need to make a conscious effort to remind myself to provide descriptions.

My editor, Helen Ginger, pointed out portions of Killer Career, my work in progress, where adding descriptions would enrich the novel. While attending to my edits, I'll pay close attention to providing more descriptive details to make the scenes come alive in the readers' minds.

What about you? Are you better at writing dialogue or description? Which do you enjoy most? Please Share.


Margay said...

I used to write very long-winded descriptions back in the day when it was still acceptable to do so, but streamlined myself into almost non-existent descriptions, a la Hemingway. So, like you, I have to make a conscious effort now to describe things, often fleshing them out in rewrites.

Dialogue is another thing entirely. I love writing dialogue, which is a good thing because I've been told I'm good at it. I love the type of banter and repartee that made the Gilmore Girls so good and I try for my own version of that in my writing. I love when characters really feed off each other and the words flow between them so fast and furious, I'm practically breaking fingers trying to keep pace with it as I type. After all, the words are just dictated to me by my characters.


Maryann Miller said...

Morgan, dialogue comes easier to me than description -- I think because of my background in scriptwriting where description is scanty.

Trying to get the right balance of description without being too obvious is a challenge. One thing that bothers me is when a character starts describing himself or herself. If you think about it, it doesn't feel natural to do that.

Mark Troy said...

I hate doing description. It always seems forced and unnatural. I admire the way James Lee Burke pints pictures of people and settings, but when I do it, it's ugly. Description is always what gets cut in the second draft.

Sharon said...

Hmm...I'm probably not very good at descriptions because I tend to see the whole picture, not the details. I'm pretty much that way in everything. Except when I'm editing something the details are what I pay attention to the most. Maybe that's because I majored in English! (Or maybe that's something I shouldn't admit :)

Sharon Reece

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm with you, Morgan - dialogue is SO much easier! I've learned to do both and no longer struggle with descriptions, but that first rough draft is always hand-written so I can get down the dialogue as it flows quickly out of my brain. (The description - not so much! That comes later...)

L. Diane Wolfe

Helen Ginger said...

When doing descriptions, you have to think about not just what the room, for example, looks like. You have to consider the people, the situation and the mindset. A woman, who loves to sew quilts and glaze her own ceramics, walks into a kitchen. She notices the hand carved bowl on the counter and smells the flowers drying in the laundry room. That same woman walks into the same kitchen and notices neither the bowl nor the flowers. She spies the lacy lingerie on top of her lover's clothes basket and hears distant laughter from upstairs. That same woman comes into the kitchen and doesn't see the bowl, the flowers or the lingerie. She hears glass breaking, smells her own fear, and sees the butcher block of knives on the counter.

Envision the scene, the people in it, and the situation. Close you eyes and "see" through the POV character's senses.


Kim Smith said...

I am learning to write the long descriptive passages in novels that will allow them, such as autobiographical and literary work. I do the other, the dialogue stuff better in my genre work.

Shelley Munro said...

I like writing dialogue. Typically, my first draft reads as if the characters exist inside a white box. I've had to learn to color and shade my white box. I'm getting much better and don't have as many notes from my editor about setting and description.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Dialogue is my forte. The narrative is mean and lean because of my journalism background. I hint at description but leave it mainly to my reader's imagination. Action is much more important than description.

Dana Fredsti said...

I'm pretty much 50/50 on this one. When I'm on a roll and the muse is cooperating (have another drink, Muse!), I'm very happy with the way both turn out. Other times my dialogue clunks as badly as the script for SHOWGIRLS and my description is lifeless.