Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Moving the Story With Dialogue

As a frequent user of dialogue to give the reader insight into my characters, impart vital information to the reader, and bring life and reality to my stories, I particularly like this post, originally published by Dani on June 22, 2009.

…That day she dined early, at six, and talked to William as he stood behind her chair, bidding him close the door to visitors in future.

“You see, William,” she said, “I came to Navron to avoid people, to be alone. My mood is to play the hermit, while I am here.”

“Yes, my lady,” he said, “I made a mistake about this afternoon. It shall not occur again. You shall enjoy your solitude, and make good your escape.”

“Escape?” she said.

“Yes, my lady,” he said, “I have rather gathered that is why you are here. You are a fugitive from your London self, and Navron is your sanctuary.”

She was silent a minute, astonished, a little dismayed, and then: “You have uncanny intuition, William,” she said, “where does it come from?”

“My late master talked to me long and often, my lady,” he said; “many of my ideas and much of my philosophy are borrowed from him. I have made a practice of observing people, even as he does. And I rather think that he would term your ladyship’s arrival here as an escape.”

“And why did you leave your master, William?”

“His life is such, at the moment, my lady, that my services are of little use to him. We decided I would do better elsewhere.”

“And so you came to Navron?”

“Yes, my lady.”

“And lived alone and hunted moths?”

“Your ladyship is correct.”

“So that Navron is also, possibly, an escape for you as well?”

“Possibly, my lady.”

“And your late master, what does he do with himself?”

“He travels, my lady.”

“He makes voyages from place to place?”

“Exactly, my lady.”

“Then he also, William, is a fugitive. People who travel are always fugitives.”

“My master has often made the same observation, my lady. In fact, I may say his life is one continual escape.”

“How pleasant for him,” said Dona, peeling her fruit; “the rest of us can only run away from time to time, and however much we pretend to be free, we know it is only for a little while – our hands and our feet are tied.”

“Just so, my lady.”

“I would like to meet your master, William.”

“I think you would have much in common, my lady.”

“Perhaps one day he will pass this way, on his travels?”

“Perhaps, my lady.”

“In fact, I will withdraw my command about visitors, William. Should your late master ever call, I will not feign illness or madness or any other disease, I will receive him.”

“Very good, my lady.”

One of my favorite bits of dialogue and a marvelous set-up for the rest of the story! From it, think about these questions:

What kind of relationship between the two speakers?
When does the story take place?
Who is William?
Who is Dona?
What can you discern about the female character’s place in society?
What can you extrapolate reading between the lines?
Do you recognize the novel this is taken from and the author?

Please leave us answers or a comment.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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