I posted about what too much dialogue one after another does to a page or worse—a whole chapter. You can see that here.

However, in this article, I’ll be marking how you can still show and give details, without making your characters directly talk.

Let’s go straight to an example; I never give advice without examples because I never learned anything without them. General advice sounds like jargon to me. Haha. 

 So, here is the dialogue. Let’s say your chapter 4 or 5 begins straight like this—


“Hey, how are you doing?”

“Fine. Here is my passport,” Jack says to the airport receptionist. “I booked my ticket online. I need the boarding pass.”

“Yes, sure!” the blonde receptionist says, “Tell me your phone number, I can get it from our directory …”

“Here it is.” Jack shows his ticket on his phone.

After a minute, the woman says, "Here is your boarding pass. Have a safe flight!" 

Jack soon gets the ticket and finds a waiting area. He enters a tax-free shop. The wines look tasty. He approaches the beautiful salesgirl.



Ok. I’m stopping here. I wanted to write the whole scene but sounds like it won’t be just a torture to my readers, but also to me—writing it. Even writing this is pressure. This pressure is my major red flag (I’ll post about this red flag later).

So, instead of showing me what sort of daily-life activities your MC did and how your MC ordered wine or coffee or got that plane ticket before getting to the main point, why not sum up all those dialogues into proper narratives? Like this—


Jack reaches the airport. His gaze determined—the mission has to be successful. Everything depends on him now. But even among all those pressure, he doesn’t forget to smile back to the blonde receptionist when he takes that boarding pass or buys a wine bottle from the duty-free shops. When a middle-aged woman was running to her gate and she trips in front of him, Jack even bows down to pick the neck-rest that fell from the woman’s hand and gives it to her. And sitting in the waiting area, he then looks at a magazine that most mothers might call dirty.


Alright, since I wrote it, I won’t talk about how better it sounds. It still sounds a bit run-on. But let’s rather focus on what’s working here while what’s not working in the dialogue part.

First, the dialogue was taking up space on your page, while not giving you enough tiny details. In the narrative part, see how many activities with the tiny details are there: reaching the airport, gaze determined, a mission that needs to succeed, he’s tensed but also smiled when he took the pass, and well, the rest of the things happened. Let’s not repeat.

The thing is, all those moments came as some indirect scenes; (in film, these are called B-roll shots) The shots, which are necessary to set the scene, to make it realistic, to give a feeling that this world is real too. Without these shots, the whole movie will be like actors speaking dialogues one after another. And whatever you do one-after-another constantly, it becomes monotonous—no matter dialogue or narrative or activities.

So, if you make me—the reader—turn 3-4 pages of short dialogues (maybe those pages have 150-180 words each, maybe if you gave narratives it would've been 350 words per page, but so what, you still made me ‘turn’ 3-4 pages) just with dialogues, that gave me--the reader--the illusion of 3-4 pages! Then I stop feeling the sweetness of the moments. I feel like, ok 4 pages passed, what's the progress?

You know, the sweetness of the moments in movies doesn’t come from just the words spoken. It also depends on the color, the lighting of the frame, the acting, the tone music, and sound effects. And you have to deliver all of them with your voice. Your voice can make a boring set of dialogues into a sweet narrative that people will read. Make them read. If you give just dialogues while trying to make it a real-life experience, we won’t really feel the real-life experience. Because in real life, our brain is constantly catching those bits of sensations in our skin, nose, ears. But in books, a world that's being transferred to me through your words only, you have to translate your sensations to me. With. Words. Only.

Now, you want to give daily-life stuff to make feel relatable. I understand. Daily life chores or ordering coffee and platters or booking hotels can happen within a short para. They don’t need pages. They don't need active dialogues. Give them to make things real, but in an artful way. Don't make it a baggage in the book. 

In case, you want to see how to write a getting-the-boarding-pass scene, you can check the first 15 pages of ‘AMERICAN GODS’ by Neil Gaiman. The beginning pages are supposed to be free everywhere. If you’ve checked or have already read AMERICAN GODS before, tell me what do you think about how the author handled it? Did you see what he did? Or how he bent the rule?

Let me know if you liked that book.

***A few other writing bloggers liked this article and posted it with my name as the guest author. If you find me there, support them, too. We all are trying to make the craft more available for the authors who are desperately looking for the right materials, despite the fact that life and living push them hard at the walls most times. If you can relate, please know, you're doing a great job! Hats off to anyone who stays in the creative lines of work, and hats off to their near ones who support them.

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