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Part 4: Narrative Type—Dialogue

Why Show, Don't Tell Advice Might Be Holding You Back

Part 4: Narrative Types-Dialogue, Why Show, Don't Tell Advice Might Be Holding You Back Series - The Writer's Cabin

Level 3: The Walls of Show, Don't Tell—Narrative Types


*Note: Please keep in mind that all of today's examples, save one, came off the top of my head. They aren't super. I ask you not to hold this against me. Thank you.

Last part, we went into the Components of Narrative Storytelling and I explained briefly how to layer those decisions on top of the POV choices you made before.

But I didn't give too many examples, because without the Narrative Types, they components are really pretty bare. But you need to understand them to make good decisions on this level.

Today, we talk about these Narrative Types. They are the basic walls we use to support the whole structure of our figurative little house. These are:

Dialogue, Internal Dialogue, Dramatic Action, and Exposition.

Or, as I like to call them: Your character talking, thinking, doing stuff, and you rambling off about things that probably don't matter.

Dialogue is always Showing, right? So conventional advice would have you believe.

I suppose, on some basic level, this statement is true. If there is dialogue, then you are in immediate scene (remember your Components of Narrative Storytelling?), and if it is in immediate scene, it is showing.

Well. You're right about the first part. But under our definition...

showing = strong image

...dialogue, both internal and external, can be some of the worst cases of Telling you'll find.

What some writers forget is that dialogue is so much more than lines of speech between quotation marks. It cannot be thought of as something apart from the narrative, separate from dramatic action, or even exposition. All the parts of your narrative must fit seamlessly together.

For this reason, I like to think of "dialogue" as not only a character's speech but also the action that happens around it. Your characters are like actors in a film. The line said without any action or body language would make for a pretty awful watching experience.

Throughout the rest of our discussion on narrative types, we will be approaching them with a holistic attitude. Dialogue cannot be discussed without the dramatic action surrounding it and so on.

Think of Showing Dialogue as Good Acting. Simple.

Let's take a look at a quick example of telling di