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Managing Fictional Narrative Flow - Dialogue/Indirect Discourse
Unit Completion Date: End of Week 9
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Writing students seem drawn to discussions about dialogue. More than any other element of fiction, students seek out advice on dialogue, tips for writing it better, techniques for redrafting. I've yet to figure out why this is so, but I suspect in part it's because so much is accomplished in well-rendered dialogue, so many facets of the story propelled within characters' discussions, that the difference between well- and poorly rendered dialogue is greater than that between, say, a good description and a not-so-good one.

Many of the grammatical problems that new writers must address are found in dialogue as well. The question of how to write dialogue correctly is as interesting to many young writers as how to write it well. Like all rules of grammar, those for dialogue should be second nature to a fiction writer. Unlike other rules of grammar, however, those for dialogue aren't used in general prose writing to the extent that they are in fiction, so most new writers haven't had as much practice with using them.

A less recognized aspect of dialogue is its effect on the forward progression of a story. If you've written a little bit of fiction, you probably already know that the fastest way to fill pages is with an extended conversation reported in dialogue. The problem is that the reader in most cases doesn't need to hear the whole conversation, and in fact reporting everything said word-for-word can slow a story to a dangerous crawl. Deciding what the reader needs and doesn't need rendered in dialogue is often the most important dialogue decision a writer makes. It's also why dialogue is an important tool for managing fictional narrative flow.

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