——STRIKING A BALANCEThere are no hard-and-fast rules about when and when not to blend dialogue, action and narrative. To weave them together well is to find your story’s rhythm. But there are a few questions you can ask yourself about your story, especially in the rewrite stage, that can help you know which elements are most effective for a particular scene, and which might be better used elsewhere.
- Is the story moving a little too slowly, and do I need to speed things up? (Use dialogue.)
- Is it time to give the reader some background on the characters so they’re more sympathetic? (Use narrative, dialogue or a combination of the two.)
- Do I have too many dialogue scenes in a row? (Use action or narrative.)
- Are my characters constantly confiding in others about things they should only be pondering in their minds? (Use narrative.)
- Likewise, are my characters alone in their heads when my characters in conversation would be more effective and lively? (Use dialogue.)
- Is my story top-heavy in any way at all—too much dialogue, too much narrative or too much action? (Insert more of the elements that are missing.)
- Are my characters providing too many background details as they’re talking to each other?
- (Use narrative.)
Whether we’re using dialogue, action or narrative to move the story forward, any or all three of these elements are doing double duty by revealing our characters’ motives. Your story’s dialogue can reveal motive in a way that’s natural and authentic, because whether we’re aware of it or not, we reveal our own motives all the time in our everyday lives.
And to understand a character’s motive is to understand the character.———–