It was the beginning of autumn on September 22 and it reminded me of a wonderful quote from The Great Gatsby.
I wondered what part of the book the quote came from. There are so many quotes like this one that are lifted from books and shared on social media sites without the context of their original meanings. When it gets crisp in the fall, life starts all over again.
Daisy asked, “What will we do with ourselves this afternoon, and the day after that, and the next thirty years?” Jordan said not to be morbid. When it gets crisp in the fall, life starts all over again. The quote was found on page 107 of the book. The character Jordan replies to Daisy with a line of dialogue.
I might be able to glean a few tips from Fitzgerald that would help me write better dialogue. The writer in me exclaimed, “What masterfully written dialogue!”.
1 Conflict can be increased through confrontation. I came away with three different things from the scene that I continued to read.
Conflict drives the plot of a story forward as well as the dialogue. A story is made up of conflict. The book would not have become a best seller if it were only about Nick Carraway’s stay in a cottage in New York. The book is full of shocking plot twists.
Your characters should have their own quirks. They will probably disagree with each other more often than they would agree. Jordan is reproving Daisy in the dialogue above. The unexpected adds tension to the conversation and keeps readers on their toes.
I recently finished writing a novel and have found this tip helpful in editing it. I had written several scenes with long conversations and they were not very interesting because it was just one character speaking their mind. I introduced disagreement and questioning from other characters, and the conversations became more interesting to read, and revealed more about the characters. In the video I made about the dinner table exercise, I talked about this more. Here you can watch it.
There are 2. Don’t write dialogue that’s “On the Nose” When you are writing a novel, try to have your characters disagree with each other. It is possible that the conversation ends up going in a different direction than you had intended.
Daisy demanded who wanted to go to town. Her eyes moved toward him. She cried, ‘you look so cool.’ They stared at each other alone. She looked at the table. She repeated that you always look cool. Tom Buchanan saw that she loved him. He was astonished. I realized that the part of the story where Daisy accidentally reveals she loves Gatsby in front of her husband was from The Great Gatsby. Here is what Fitzgerald wrote.
This is a great reminder not to write dialogue that is on the nose. If you want to avoid having your characters say something that is obvious to the reader or reveal what the character is thinking, try to avoid it. Daisy does not say out loud that she loves him. She says that he looks cool. Fitzgerald explains that she loves the novel. Her words make the scene compelling.
The dialogue on the nose isn’t always a no-no. An old lady who suddenly lashes out and says, “I’m furious!” will make your readers curious. If there is any “on the nose” dialogue in your manuscript, take a story and see if you can find it. Rewriting the scene will make it more engaging. Instead of having a character say, “I’m angry!”, show us the character is angry through their actions and facial expressions and through a more subtle line of dialogue.
There are 3. There is a hint at the theme of your story. If the dialogue is stating something obvious or not revealing further details about the character, then it should be avoided.
I said that she has an indiscreet voice. It is full. There are two more lines of dialogue here.
One of the themes of the story is the shallowness of the upper class, who hide behind their wealth. I was hesitant. He said that her voice was full of money. It was all over. I had never understood it before. It was full of money and the charm that rose and fell in it was inexhaustible.
TheTheme gives the audience a sense of time well spent. When you think about it, every theme has a lesson. That is the value added that draws an audience to a story. The bigger the lesson, the more value is added. We associate great literature with the biggest ones. In his book Storycraft, editor Jack Hart states the importance of having a theme or lesson in your piece of writing.
It is easy to fall into the trap of having a character preach at the reader for several long paragraphs when you attempt to convey a theme through dialogue. Fitzgerald shows how to communicate a theme with a single sentence. You can convey the theme in many different ways, like in The Great Gatsby.
There is a Takeaway. If you have any characters in the piece, look at it and see if they preach at the readers. If you can make it simpler, just one memorable line or two. If you can work it in through a line of dialogue, you can convey the theme as strongly as you would like.
The three techniques are simple and straightforward. You can use them immediately to take the dialogue in your stories to a higher level.