Knowing what to cut
Is the dialogue pulling its weight or drowning the story? Each scene should bring something to the table. It should bring the characters closer or further from their goals. To ensure it is a functional piece of your story, answer the following questions honestly.
The big one: How does this change the story (what will happen now)?
The little ones:
- If I remove the passage of dialogue that I’m suspecting isn’t moving the story, will it be missed? Does the story work just as well without it?
- Does the dialogue characterize to the exclusion of the other important scene elements, like story movement?
- How does the dialogue passage further the story’s theme?
- How does the passage of dialogue increase the suspense for what’s to come, raising the stakes for the protagonist?
- How does the dialogue make it clearer what the protagonist wants in the story?
- What kind of external and internal obstacles does the passage of dialogue surface for the protagonist?
- What new information about the plot and theme does the dialogue reveal?
- How is the dialogue pivotal in changing the characters—making them more desperate for what they want, causing them to want to give up,bringing them to a place of new determination?
Not sure if the words are solid? Do a cold reading.
Cold reading a piece means reading only the words that are being spoken, without the fluff of inflections and dramatization. Avoid characterizing the words, even if you have the urge. It is a tight reading that will put a harsh mirror to your work and show you if you are overdoing it, or perhaps understating it.
The written piece:
'I don't want to go. Please don't make me go.' John begged, falling to his knees, tears falling down his cheeks. 'You can't make me! I won't leave!'
You read aloud:
I don't want to go. Please don't make me go. You can't make me. I won't leave.
Haven (1999) Wright Right; Creative Writing Using Storytelling Techniques.
Noble, W. (1987) Shut up! He explained.
Reeves, C. (2012) Scriptshadow Secrets.
Truby, J. (2007) The Anatomy of Story.