I've been thinking a lot about dialogue recently, since I feel I am decent at it but not great. Looking at writers who seem to always have fantastic dialogue, like John Scalzi, I wonder how they manage it. Is it just a natural gift? Do they write dialogue in their first drafts that is just as pedestrian as ours but then go back and edit it into a masterpiece? I wish I knew. I've left comments on Scalzi's blog a couple of times asking if he would do a post about how he so consistently manages brilliant dialogue, but he has ignored my requests. Who knows, perhaps he doesn't consciously know how he does it because it comes so naturally to him?
I have noticed one thing with dialogue lately while watching shows and movies or reading books, and it as starting to upset me. Writers are constantly creating false tension in their stories by purposely making their characters either not say enough when they can or by simply having them not say anything at all when they should. All the time there will be scenes when someone asks a question, and the other person could very easily just give a straight answer, but instead they don't, and that causes the tension to rise in the story. I know, I know, the writer wants the tension to rise, but to me this is a false way to do it, and it's maddening. Rather than have an actual plot point be the cause of the tension, the writer builds the tension by having one character simply not bother to provide key info to others. The more I have this in mind, the more often I see it happening in all the stories I'm watching and reading (but far more often when watching!).
As much as this pisses me off, it makes me wonder if this is a weakness of mine as a writer. Am I simply too forthcoming with my dialogue? Do I always just tell what seems common sense to tell and thus allow the potential tension to melt away in my stories?
Extract from Alan Smale's CLASH OF EAGLES
56 minutes ago