Saturday, January 23, 2010

A bad bit of dialogue explored...


This is one of the most over used and ill-advised bits of dialogue out there. It should make every “bad dialogue” list out there, but somehow slips through the cracks.


Dick sips tea pensively. Jane enters in a hurry. Sits down across from Dick.

What is it? What’s the matter?

Jane. I have a confession…

He looks at her sheepishly, closes his eyes and opens them slowly.

You know how I never go to the bathroom? 

                         Well…it’s because I wear a diaper. I'm
                          wearing one now.

Jane is frozen. Dick breathes a sigh of relief.

Wow, it feels good to get that off my chest.

Jane remains awe struck. She slumps her shoulders and furrows her brow.

…I just shat.

See how bad that is? The little bit of dialogue “I have a confession…” is completely trite. Yea…that’s how some people talk…but it’s so lame as a piece of dialogue. It separates us from the character and takes away from the power of what they’re about to say. One might argue that it’s used to quickly build tension. It immediately gets the reader wondering right away. BUT wouldn’t it be better if subtext go that information across. The scene builds slowly. Dick gets more and more uncomfortable, then suddenly just blurts it out…I WEAR A DIAPER.

Plus “I have a confession…” sets up huge expectations that are almost always let down. And if the confession was important enough in the first place, it doesn’t need this pretext at all.

Another lazy trick to avoid.

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