It was a busy weekend that included a trip to a library book sale and a stop at a Barnes & Noble to replace my defective Nook Tablet. I then spent a considerable amount of time working with all of the children’s books piling up around here. I’ll be busy this week until I catch up.
I also took some time to do some reading. I have a couple of hardcover books that I started quite a while ago, and I wanted to finish them. One was a mystery; the other was chick-lit. Both were good stories, but I found myself feeling irritated with the latter. There was too much dialogue, and I became weary of listening in on conversations. I was relieved when there were short bursts of description or information. The story moved too quickly with nearly all of it told in dialogue. New characters came on the scene and added to the conversation with nary an introduction made. There were entire chapters, albeit short, consisting entirely of dialogue. I forced myself forward to the predictable ending.
Have you ever had ice cream that seemed whipped, full of air, and not satisfying? That’s what this book was like – full of air. The actual story itself seemed small. The book was by a well-known author who has published many books. This is their style.
I did a few online searches, and there are articles, blog posts, and opinions that are as numerous as the stars about dialogue. Some say there is no such thing as too much dialogue, and others say there is. Many of the comments fell into two camps:
Pro: Many new writers have too much exposition in their writing and not enough dialogue.
Con: Characters are loud when they talk too much, and they need to shut up so the story can move forward.
Writing style is subjective. What one person enjoys, another may dislike. I found this heavy use of dialogue interesting. I don’t recall it from my past years of being a voracious reader. Is this a fairly new thing?
I grabbed a couple of books from my bookcase. One from the 50’s, and one from the 60’s. The book from the 50’s has a style I enjoy. There is plenty of dialogue, but everything in the scene isn’t explained in dialogue. Perusing one chapter, I find a nice mix of dialogue and paragraphs which show and/or tell. Instead of two characters talking about something that happened previously, it’s more enjoyable to read about the experience – which is more detailed with descriptions and feelings than their conversation would convey. The book from the 60’s seems to have a ratio of 40:60 with dialogue being the former. This book, too, was more enjoyable to me than the current book.
I checked several vintage books that are in the public domain. Three that I looked through were similar with pages and pages without dialogue, but when dialogue was used, one person might talk for a full one to two pages on my Nook. There were some long-winded people back in the day. One of the books seemed to have a nice balance between dialogue and exposition, but none were dialogue heavy.
As a reader, I know what I like. I know I’ve read dialogue heavy books before and haven’t always enjoyed them, but I didn’t realize why. As a new writer, I tend to look at styles more closely now, and am more aware of why I like or dislike a style.
This isn’t a case for or against heavy dialogue. I was simply aware of why I found reading one particular book more irritating than enjoyable.
Have you noticed if there are styles of writing that aren’t as enjoyable to you as others?