When a character speaks, regardless of the topic, they’re also revealing things about themselves, their unique perspective on the topic at hand. When a character chooses to speak (or whether they choose to speak) implies what is important to them, just as how they respond demonstrates their mood and general opinion on the topic, and their opinion of those around them.
The last post discussed what could be considered the two basic forms of dialogue: questions and statements. But dialogue is also about what’s left unsaid, especially when a speaker actively and intentionally chooses to omit or withhold information.
When writing dialogue, it’s important to consider both what the character is saying, and what they are revealing. There are 4 ways that dialogue can reveal new information to the audience:
1. Questions a character asks.
2. Statements a character makes.
3. How a character responds
4. Vague Remarks & Implications
Choice plays a critical role in any story. Much of the meaning found in stories is derived from the choices a character makes, and their consequences. And yet, I feel that most characters make very few real choices over the course of their story. And I think that’s a good thing. Too many choices can overwhelm a person, just as too few can make for a boring story.
What are modalities?
A modality is how someone translates real world experiences into memories, and how they retrieve those memories. For example, when someone reads text, there are a few different ways they might remember what they’ve read:
Remembering the specific words on the page
Saying the words out loud and remembering the sound
Reinterpreting the text and remembering their own version of it