Work-shopping With a Purpose

I recently had a class on work-shopping stories. Those of us in the group shared a part of our writing to the group for a critique. The idea behind the workshop is to pick out the high and low points of the particular piece in order to help the writer make it stronger. I doubt I am alone in saying that I don’t like to be criticized. In work-shopping however, the criticism is not meant to tear down the writer, but to make them stronger. I would like to share something I learned in my last workshop, and that is a part of character development.

Part of all my writing involves character dialogue. I like writing dialogue because it gives a chance to differentiate personalities through conversation. But I kept getting dinged for too much dialogue and not enough subtext. Finally, after a frustrating session it hit me. Conversation isn’t just about words. Conversation involves gestures, body language, posturing and so forth. To make my characters fit in with the story, I have to actually put them in the story, and not just their words. So dialogue is great, but in reality a conversation is so much more than 2 mouths spitting words. There are thoughts, there is action, there is expression. I realized that good dialogue comes with all the parts of a true conversation. You can’t just have a character say something and be done. You actually have to write them as dialogue. Make them part of that scene, not just their words. By adding in a facial tick, or a change in posture, your character becomes more lifelike and easier to relate to. It is something I will be working on in all my upcoming writing, as well as part of my revision process. Thank you work-shop!