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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Tuesday Challenge


You can probably see immediately what's wrong with this piece of dialogue inserted below:


Officer, I need to see the knife.”

“This case is closed.”

“I still need to see the knife.”

"You can need all you like"

"Let me see the knife, please"

“Did you hear me ? The case is closed, now leave it alone.”

Putting aside the relative merits of the dialogue itself, you're probably immediately struck by the fact that this scene has no points of reference for the reader. Apart from knowing there are two people (one of whom is a police official) plus a knife, there are no properly defined characters and the environment is entirely featureless.

It made me think again about the importance of showing rather than telling in creative writing and that without vivid description it can be like putting the reader into an empty room where they can only hear voices yet are unable to see who is talking, where they are or what’s happening. Adding description that draws on the senses and paints a picture with metaphor and simile would enrich this scene immeasurably.

So your Tuesday Challenge, should you wish to take it, is to enrich this scene by putting some flesh on the bones of the dialogue.


HERE'S MINE 'off the cuff' so to speak:
“Officer, I need to see the knife.” The young man seemed to fill PC Huish’s tiny office by just stepping inside the threshold. His body cast a long shadow across the desk like a stone age monolith against the sunlight, as he briefly glanced around the room. Crammed with over-filled filing cabinets and piles and piles of paperwork that fluttered and rustled in the breeze of an electric fan it had a chaotic atmosphere.

P.C. Huish shielded his face with his hand, peering over the rim of his tortoiseshell glasses. His unprotected eyes seemed reptilian and piercing as they stared up at the young reporter. “This case is closed.” He said keeping his tone even and firm.

“I still need to see that knife.” The young reporter persisted, his craggy face etched with dogged determination.

Huish's expression betrayed an admiration for the young man’s persistence, but he wasn’t prepared to capitulate to a rooky upstart like Craig Muldoon. “Did you hear me?” he repeated “The case is closed, now leave it alone.”


Admittedly the dialogue in this piece requires editing. It evolved from something similar that I read that sparked the idea of what else was missing from the writing.


2 comments:

  1. It also shows the need for dialogue that moves the story forward.

    Great post!

    ReplyDelete

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