For some peculiar reason, I am, like 5 million others, a follower of Radio 4’s The Archers. My daily 13-minute listen in to the “tales of everyday farming folk” keeps me gripped. Some of the characters I dislike, some I despair of, and others I think are fun. It is a soap opera focused on rural life somewhere in middle England, which I tend to assume is Worcestershire. It has been sentimental and benign on the whole but has covered drugs, divorce, domestic violence and other messy aspects of life beginning with D – and other letters.
Most recently, I was spending each episode listening to the net closing in on a man engaged in modern slavery, willing the smooth-operator to be caught out, and his hapless partner to find out.
Then, Coronavirus happened, the recorded scripts ran out and we had an Archer-free period. It is now back in a socially-distanced way, with each episode based on character reflections. This was interesting for the first few, as it is good to get a view from a character, rather than guessing at it from dialogue, but eventually, it became a tad tedious.
What I’ve learned …
Dialogue, it seems, is crucial to moving a story along. When characters talk about themselves, ponder their thoughts, or reflect on events, it is interesting, but the appeal is short-lived. Navel-gazing/single point of view is not terribly exciting. Where’s the conflict?
We need dialogue to move things on, to gather pace, to shift a story forward.
We have tips here on driving your story with dialogue.
Why is it so important? Dialogue is crucial as a communication tool.
- Allows the reader to understand different perspectives without laborious explanation.
- It is thus useful for marking out differences between characters, one who sees capital punishment as legitimate, another who sees it as immoral, for instance.
- It does not solve problems but is a helpful process in writing, as in life, to work towards a solution.
- Dialogue is the way characters enact.
- It adds in rough edges, thereby adding texture to the pure silken nature of a narrative.
- It tells a story but also elaborates on the setting.
Good dialogue can be difficult, so it needs some effort. The best way to learn is through listening to others, but definitely, in a novel, unless your writing is superb, good dialogue is an essential. .