Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dialogue And Purpose Part 2

Dialogue serves a multitude of purpose in a novel. In my last blog, I talked about four ways dialogue contributes to your story—presents information and reveals backstory, develops character, advances the plot and create conflict.

In this blog, I’ll share four more ways in which dialogue helps to create an exciting journey of the characters. They are: Foreshadowing and Showing growth of the characters.

Foreshadowing — Dialogue can set up events and problems deeper in the story. It provides emotional situation, even secrets that the hero and heroine might be harboring and hints of upcoming conflicts.

In this excerpt from And Baby Makes Five, dialogue between Chad and his manager, Joe, reflect not only emotion from the past, but foreshadows events to come.

“What’s gotten into you, Chad? It’s not like you to--”

“I know.” His head lowered and he wove through the millions of feelings tearing through him. He regained composure and looked at Joe. “I saw the woman in labor, and I couldn’t help but think of--”

“Janie.” Joe looked stunned and moved forward, his expression filled with sympathy. “I’m sorry, man. I didn’t think. It makes sense that you’d be reminded of your wife.” He settled back into the chair. “You did the right thing.”

Chad wondered. Now that he’d gotten tangled in this woman’s problem, he couldn’t let it go. Distraction followed him home from the hospital while his thoughts drifted again to Felisa’s needs. Felisa. He’d never bothered to learn the names of his workers. It made them too real, and now this woman and her baby were too real. “She had a boy.”

Joe didn’t respond but looked at him, his eyes searching Chad’s face as if wondering what he’d gotten himself into.

He felt defensive with Joe’s probing look. “I didn’t go in to see the woman.”

Joe let out a stream of breath as if relieved. “Don’t get too involved, Chad. It’s a hopeless situation.”

Chad heaved back his chair, hearing the scrape of the legs against the wooden floor, and rose, his chest tightening with Joe’s reality. “I know. I know, but--”

“You did your good deed. Natividad will take the financial loss, and you can feel good that you did that much.”

That much. The woman could survive, but that baby boy. What about him?

This dialogue foreshadows the obvious. Chad has already gotten involved, and thinking of his deceased wife who died in childbirth lets the reader know that they can count on his getting more involved than he already is. Foreshadowing is an important element of suspense. One off-handed comment can set up an incident that will happen later in the story.

Showing growth of the characters

The characters must go through change. As they face new things and experience life around them, they will see things differently and they will grow. In this excerpt from the same novel,
The nanny of the house pits herself against Felicia and Felicia feels to blame for the tension.

“I should leave. Nate is so healthy and he’s small. I can carry him in a sling on my back with no problem. I’ll return to the fields on Monday.”

Chad clasped her forearms in each hand. “Who will be the girl’s nanny if you leave?”

“I’m used to field work. I’ve--” His words swung through her mind, then whacked her. “What do you mean?”

“Mrs. Drake has threatened to quit numerous times. This time I took her up on the offer. She’ll be leaving tomorrow. You can’t leave now.”


His grip softened, and he drew her closer. “I told you earlier today, Felisa, that you’ve brought joy back into our lives. You’ve helped me see what the girl’s need. They need a father who gives them time and attention. Your care for the girls has done wonders. They’ve changed in the short time you’ve been here.”

“Children need love and caring. . .as well as discipline. That was Mrs. Drakes’ mistake.”

“I see that now,” he said.

Notice how growth is shown in this excerpt. Chad talks about how his girls have changed since Felisa has come to his home, but he also admits that he has changed. He tells her that she’s brought happiness into his life. Each new step moves the characters forward.

My next blog will show the final ways dialogue is used to strength a novel and to provide an active delivery of moving the plot forward— revealing emotions, setting a tone or mood.

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