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Monday, December 04, 2006


Camy Tang on Dialogue and Action Beats

Story Sensei has pointed out something so true--and yet so obvious in her recent series on dialogue. Some writer's tend to qualify their dialogue with too many action beats. (Be sure to read her short post about action beats.)

Camy then discusses both appropriate and inappropriate uses of action beats. Sometimes the dialogue needs a pause. Sometimes the characters stop speaking for a moment, and the writer must insert some description to create that moment for the reader.

But usually dialogue makes the story move quickly--in part because of the short paragraphs, I think.

When we add too many action beats, I think it actually slows the reader down even more than normal description--because now the reader has to switch mental gears from dialogue to description and back again.

I only know one way to learn the art of dialogue. Read plays! And the best way to find the best plays is to look at the Tonys. Search by winner of best Play in the drop down list and you'll find 70 to choose from. Now get some used copies! Often these will come with several plays in one book, like The Beauty Queen of Leenane. (If you are feeling stout of heart, check out other works by Martin Mcdonagh--especially The Pillow Man.)

Thanks, Mark! Good point about plays, too. I'll include that in an article in my dialogue series.
My wife and I have a dream of visiting New York City once a year just so we can go see the best new plays.

Not the musicals, mind you. Those end up touring if they are worth the price of admission. And some of the tours are pretty good even.

But good new drama is so hard to find.

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