Literary nonfiction writers employ all kinds of literary devices to create stories: exposition, scene setting, description, characterization, foreshadowing, points of view, pacing, spacing, and on and on. But perhaps the most valuable tool employed in the service of the literary nonfiction writer is dialogue. Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people, reproduced in writing. Good dialogue comes across on the page as the actual voices of the characters in a story, with their own diction, dialect, rhythm and pacing that is consistent with the personality of the subjects. The best dialogue can achieve what no other literary device can: a conversational back and forth between speakers that sounds spontaneous, never stilted or contrived. It conveys information subtly, without interrupting the flow of the story’s action. And it reveals the thoughts, ideas and emotions swirling inside the heads and hearts of characters in a lively and natural-sounding way.
We’re making some of the dialogue between characters in Archer City available to you on Center & Main so you can see for yourself how dialogue may be one of the best ways to turn any conversation into a story.
– George Getschow, Writer-in-Residence at the Mayborn School of Journalism and founder of the Archer City Writers Workshop
Read some of the Workshop dialogue exercises in Under the Stoplight>