The Mistake No Dialogue Writer Should Ever Make

Dan O’Brien in Literary Hub:

Almost every first draft (and third, and fifth) is overwritten. Maybe too much is happening, but usually it’s all the talk that bloats and clogs. Too much of anything at the outset can be helpful, though; every tailor knows it’s easier to cut cloth than to adhere it. But there is an art to cutting.

I spend many of my days at my desk deleting dialogue. Because I am inveterately cautious I like to bracket first by hand, then strikethrough, then remove words when I am sure; and by decluttering my speech of the words that don’t need to be spoken—that cannot be spoken—I find I am loosing, if you will, a more living speech. Actors in rehearsal may help a new play along with, “Can I cut this line and instead be it or do it? If I step from Line A to Line C, or leap to D or F, without these intermediate and preparatory words and phrases, will the speech still make sense? Will it make more sense? Will the speech—will I, the actor—come alive?”

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