Today’s title may be a bit misleading. Ah, well.
This is one of those days where the spiders and mice who live in my head haven’t had their coffee yet, so as Jefferson Airplane once said in ballad of Alice and the White Rabbit, “…and your mind is runnin’ slowwwww.”
Nonetheless, let’s chat about Narration, Description, Action and Dialogue. Take a deep breath.
If we believe in the “Rules of Writing”—something I find myself shying away from little by little, we will remember the old saw about showing instead of telling.
The “rule” makes a kind of sense.
You can say “…they fought in divorce court”, or you can detail the battle, bringing in the sights, sounds and smells of the court. Which would be better? I think it would depend upon whether you want to keep the action high, or if you think detail more important in your story.
Today’s challenge is to rise above narration and description altogether. What? Yes. It can be done, and you’ve probably done it yourself in the past without noticing.
The way? Dialogue. All dialogue. Just dialogue.
I’ve taken—as an example—the liberty of tacking on one of my (very) short stories, Amber Alert below. It is done entirely in dialogue. You decide if it gets the job done.
Note: For those of you reading outside of the US, an “Amber Alert” is a media notification of the abduction of a child, the purpose of which is to get the population looking for the child. You will see I’ve taken some liberties with the concept.
“She’s just a little girl!”
“I know, honey, I know”
“We’ve got to do something!”
“I called the sheriff. I told him–”
“–What did he say?”
“He said he had every deputy available out looking.”
“They’ve got to find her in time. Oh, God, honey, what are we going to do?”
“Just… Just… I don’t know. It’ll be OK. I–”
“Do you promise? Do you promise we’ll find her?”
“We’re doing… we’re ALL doing everything we can.”
“But she’s just a little girl! How… how is it possible?”
“I don’t… I just don’t know.”
“Oh, God! There’s the phone. Maybe it’s… Answer it, please. I can’t–”
“–it’s all right. I’ll get it. Hello? Yes. Speaking. What? Could you repeat–”
“Oh, Jesus, what? What is it?”
“Shhh. Yes, Sheriff, I’m here. Would you repeat… They did? Oh, thank God. And she’s all right? I can’t tell you how much… yes. I’ll tell her. Tha– yes. I’ll be sure to tell her. When? Good. No, we’ll be here. Any time at all… well, the sooner the bet– yes. Yes sir. Thank you so much.”
“They found her? She’s all right?”
“Yes, dear. She’s fine. Your mother’s fine.”
“And that horrible little girl? That twisted little, what’s her name…?”
“That ugly little girl. Did they get her?”
“No. She got away. I think she shot a deputy…. they say he’ll live.”
“But Mom? She’s OK?”
“Yes, honey, your mother’s safe now. That’s one victim Amber couldn’t hold on to.”
Again, today’s challenge is to convey a situation, some action, some story, through the less conventional method of using dialogue only.
I’d be happy to see your results.