Dialogue (Part 4) - A Song of Speech and Story
Updated: May 11
In this episode, we start with a broad conversation about story and art that narrows all the way down to why dialogue is so useful in fiction storytelling, and how our own perspectives don’t hinder character development, but actually enhance them.
First, we need to lay some groundwork for a conversation about story, so that we can better understand how dialogue is integral to storytelling as a whole.
Story is change through conflict
The definition of story as change through conflict is helpful because it sets some broad parameters for us, but we have a lot of room to move around in the definition as well.
Change through conflict can mean a serious, life-altering event; something shocking and irreversible. But change through conflict can also be as simple as a shift in a main character’s perspective. As long as something happens to take your character from point A to point B, your story has a foundation.
If you’re not sure what change through conflict may look like in your own storytelling, consider starting with yourself.
Say you have an internal or relational conflict; the stories that we tell ourselves about the world (our worldview) likely have a lot to do with the source of the conflict. We experience clashes in worldview all the time, and that is essentially what good storytelling fleshes out.
Great authors have the ability to hold multiple worldviews in their heads at once, so that their characters are not flat, only representing one perspective, but multifaceted.
The more you lay out real-world struggles, the more relatable your storytelling will be, and it’ll leave a greater impact on your audience.
Dialogue is mini-story
Every piece of dialogue you write for your characters is a chance to propel the larger story forward in tiny increments.
A helpful way to think about this is to think of dialogue as a symphony of three parts;
Plot themes; Plot is desire, and obstacles hindering desire (this is your melody)
Moral themes; how your worldviews are expressed in the story (this is your harmony)
Icon Themes; repetitive themes and phrases, (this is your symphony) to give meaning and depth to the story as it progresses.
Character is dialogue
You should be able to find out a lot about a character by the way they speak.
Two people in a story can have seemingly everything in common (twins are a common trope, for example), and yet when they open their mouths, they have different voices, speech patterns, vocabulary choice.
Fiction storytelling is so exciting and beautiful because you can create something so outside of yourself, yet you can situate yourself within aspects of your character by putting your own questions into their mouths, and working it out on the page.