Scott Sparling

Hallucinations, a blog about writing, trains, and Wire to Wire

Quote Unquote

Posted on Oct 2nd, 2012.

What do you do with a character who won’t say anything on the page? Or one who won’t shut up? I’m running a workshop on dialogue at the Wordstock Festival in PDX in a week or so. By then, I hope to find the answers to these and other questions. 

I had both extremes in Wire to Wire—a character who wouldn’t speak unless you poked him with a stick and one who blabbed on for pages. The one who wouldn’t shut up was a lot more fun to write. 

To get ready for the workshop, I’m making a list of things I want to address. Here’s what’s on it so far:

  • Dialogue as character poetry

  • Characters who don’t talk

  • Characters who talk too much

  • Dialogue as story information – exceptions where it works

  • How many people in a scene can talk?

  • Found dialogue

  • Real vs. real-sounding vs. clever dialogue

  • Importance of the cut-away

  • Sniper dialogue

  • Extended dialogue

  • Situations where no one should talk

  • Story clues in dialogue

  • Dialogue attributions

  • Delillo dialogue/McCarthy dialogue

  • Dialogue quirks

  • Swearing in dialogue

  • Memorable dialogue

  • Your dialogue

Sometime in the next ten days, I’ll get an outline together to make sense of all that. With examples from Robert Stone, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jon Raymond, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Lethem and maybe other people named John as well.  

The workshop is on Saturday, October 13 at 4:30. It’ll be fun and maybe even helpful. You can sign up here.


One minute and fifty-six seconds of garage rock that will never die: The Music Machine’s “Talk Talk.” Sean Bonniwell R.I.P.