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Dr Manjiri Prabhu
Tuesday , September 18, 2012 at 18 : 07

Dialogue - Part Two


Have you ever listened to the dialogues in a film and thought, 'wow, what dialogues!" The reason for your appreciation is not only because, in a film, they are well written and delivered with emotion and finesse but also because they reveal a lot of the character as well as the story.

Dialogue within a book has similar traits. In a film, the dialogues between the characters appear when the characters do, interspersed with the cinematic visuals. Similarly in a book, the dialogues inter-weave with the narrative.

One very important feature of Dialogue is that it has to make a point. The point could be in the form of revealing something i.e. giving added information that until now the reader had not been offered. The added information could be a part of the plot or more of the character. Dialogues are words mouthed by the characters, which would undoubtedly reveal a lot - sometimes the obvious, but often the more subtle innermost thoughts and conflicts.

Along with the narrative, dialogue plays an important part in the unfolding of the plot. Here's an example :

"The phone rang shrilly and Sonia lifted the receiver. "Hello?"

"She's had a relapse, Sonia!" Rita sounded frantic. "I don't know what to do; even the Doctor feels that he's helpless if she makes no effort. Sonia, I'm so scared!"

"Calm down. I'll be there in half an hour," Sonia replied.

Through this brief conversation, we get to learn a lot. That someone is ill and making no effort to get better, that she's had a relapse, that Rita is extremely anxious and looks to Sonia for emotional assistance. Obviously, Sonia seems to be dependable. This conversation helped not only in revealing more about the characters, but also in advancing the story.

Through Dialogue, explanations could be given. This can clear the doubts in the minds of the characters as well as the readers.

And lastly, Dialogue could 'hide' something. This is especially true of a mystery novel, where a lot of underlying meaning could be hinted at without stating it obviously. This adds to the suspense element in the novel. Here's an example:

"Chandan was asking about Shalu today," Prem said.

Amit looked startled. "Shalu?"

Prem nodded. "I pretended I didn't know anything. But what about you? If he questions you, what will you say?" he asked, curiosity stamped on his face.

Amit looked worried. "I don't know."

"Want my advice? Tell him nothing. Or your beautiful world will come crashing down around you head!"

It is obvious from this conversation, that Chandan is interested in knowing more about a girl called Shalu, that Amit and Prem are worried about this and that some kind of mystery surrounds Shalu.

So you can see that well-written dialogues between characters can play multiple functions.

More in the next post. . .

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More about Dr Manjiri Prabhu

Dr Manjiri Prabhu is an academic, author of several novels, a short filmmaker and an animal lover. 'Imagination To Ink' is her 16-part series on writing and its aesthetics.