Monday, June 16, 2008

Dialogue And Purpose Part 3

Last blog, I covered two more ways in which dialogue serves a purpose in fiction, foreshadowing and showing growth of character. This blog will cover the last two purposes—revealing emotions and setting a tone or mood.

Revealing Emotions — Dialogue is something readers witness through body action and introspection, but dialogue also delivers all kinds of emotion. In this excerpt, Chad has taken Felica to dinner and Brook, an associate of Chad’s runs into them. His snide remarks and comments, heats the scene and you can feel the emotion growing in both characters.

As they stepped outside, Chad felt a hand on his shoulder, and he spun around, surprised to see a familiar face. “Brook. How’ve you been?”

Great, and you look well, he said, eyeing Felisa. “Very well, in fact.”

Chad didn’t like his ogling. “Felisa, this is Brook Garner. He owns a farm near Monterey. We sit on an agricultural committee together.”

“Hello,” she said, backing away as if uncomfortable.

Chad longed to put a protective arm around her, but with Brook’s leer, he stopped himself.

“Brook, this is Felisa Carrillo. She’s the twins nanny, and--”

“Nanny.” A taunting grin settled on his face. “My, my.”

Chad saw Felisa shrink backward, moving away toward the path, and he felt helpless.

“You’ve got a good thing going with the sweet little nanny,” Brook said. “You can send her to my house anytime.”

Chad grasped his arm. “She deserves more respect than that, Brook.”

“She’s Mexican, Chad. What do you expect me to think?”

“Think this.” He stared the man, nose to nose. “Hispanic, American, Afro-American, Chinese, I don’t care. Everyone deserves respect unless you have the facts to know otherwise. If I hear one snide comment about her, I’ll--”

“Chad, I was pulling your leg.” Brook took a step backward. “You can date who you want to, but you can’t expect everyone to have the same view that you do.” He gave a head toss toward Felisa. “Those people work in my fields.”

“And they work in mine where they receive a decent wage and respect. You could mind to do the same.”

The emotion builds as each character reacts to the stimulus. Brook tries to defend his prejudice while Chad defends his relationship with Felisa and defends the rights of minority groups, but the reader hears more in this dialogue about Chad’s feelings. He responds with tenderness to Felisa while his fiery sprit grows as he comes to her defense.

Setting a tone or mood — Mood or tone is often developed through narration with descriptive settings or introspection as the character reveals his deepest thoughts and fears, but dialogue also creates a tone or mood. In this excerpt, Felica and Chad attend a business dinner, and once again Brook steps in to cause trouble. In this set of dialogue, he has followed Felisa and waits for her as she leaves the rest room. The mood of this excerpt is clear.

Standing close to the men’s room door, she spotted Brook. He appeared to be waiting for someone, and she prayed it wasn’t her.

She gave him a faint smile as she tried to pass, but his hand clamped on her arm and pulled her back.

“What do you want?” she asked, feeling her heart pounding in her chest.

“Talk,” he said.

“Talk? About what?”

“You. . .and me.”

She shook her head. What did he mean? Thoughts swirled through her mind. “I’m not interested in changing jobs, Mr.--” She forgot his last name.

He grinned and pulled her against his chest. “I’m not offering you a job, but maybe you’d like a few more pretty little gifts.”

He dragged his finger across her necklace, leaving her flesh prickling with fear.

“What do you say?” he asked.

“Please let me go.”

She heard the pleading in her voice, but he only laughed.

“Chad Garrison will toss you to the hounds when he’s through with you. Don’t you know that?”

She cringed at his insinuation. “Chad is a good man. He’s kind. Please don’t suggest that--”

“Look here, pretty lady, I can be kind, too.”

She jerked away from him , but he lashed out for her again. She dodged his hand and raced down the hallway. She couldn’t go back inside. She had to get away.

This excerpt darkens the mood. The reader can feel Felisa’s desperation to escape, her realization that prejudice is uncompromising. You can sense her fear and disappointment. You can also sense that she realizes the impact of her relationship on Chad’s reputation.

Another thing that dialogue does for a novel is to create white space. Readers are drawn to pages that are not heavy with print. Large blocks of text tends to jerk them away from the story and so dialogue with its short and long sentences, along with a blend of introspection and body action, helps to create interesting appearing pages with short paragraph and lots of white space. Keep that in mind as you write your novel. Make paragraphs short and allow the reader to enjoy the look of the pages as they are drawn into your novel.


Sweet Romance Writer said...

Thank you, Gail, for all your hard work! I'm learning so much!

Just wanted to let you know that I've featured you on my writing blog. Here's the link:


Gail Gaymer Martin said...

I checked out your blog, Susan, but couldn't find a way to say thank you -- so I hope you read this and know that I appreciate your very nice comments.