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January 9, 2013

            I’ve finally caught up to where I left off in the sequel to Meleena’s Adventures and am continuing in Gods Of The Blue Mountains. There’s a long stretch where the characters are learning about what they’re going to do, how they’re supposed to do it and their misgivings.

            This is not a new discussion but maybe a new approach, or… okay, a rewording of part of a discussion I’ve had before that was quite a while ago. Rather than many of you who’d rather not go back through all my old articles, I’m going to talk about it again. What method do you use to convey information to your readers?

            There are mainly two ways writers let their readers know stuff. Either through narrative or dialogue. Broadly speaking, either the narrator tells you, the reader, background information, or the characters do through their dialogue. Of course, there are endless combinations of the two.

            My approach, to use the broadest terms, is a combination. However, I tend to convey as much if not more background information through dialogue as in narrative. Any guesses why?

            I have an old article from early 2012 called Showing Not Telling.

            Anyone remember that one?

            I make it clear that showing not telling is my nemesis. Even though many writers use narrative with abandon, it can be extremely hard not to make it telling instead of showing. Even then, some of the best writers out there tell to their hearts content and get away with it because, truth be told, there’s nothing at all wrong with telling if done well. After all, who ever heard of showing a story? Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Or maybe there’s a better word to describe it that I just can’t think of right now.

            I use narrative to convey information, don’t get me wrong. However, I try to balance it out with more dialogue because dialogue moves the story along. I’ve had plenty of people tell me too much dialogue makes the story weak and talky, etc. If the dialogue is well done, I find it moves the story very well. However, it has to be balanced with enough action and narrative so that something is going on to tie it all together.

            I’m not talking about the dialogue that I’ve seen many, especially British authors use, which is full-page paragraphs of characters explaining something. I read lots of thrillers by Brits and that seems to be a trend with many of them. I don’t know if that’s a standard over in Jolly Olde’ Englande’ or just the batch of authors I’ve picked. I know that people in real life don’t talk that way.

            My dialogue comes in short bursts. My biggest issue, which I’ve described before, is that I try not to use tags. I either use actions or imply who is speaking. This can be a real challenge if several people are in a conversation.

            When it comes to the narrative, I try to keep from telling as much as I can but I find it almost impossible to convey information without a certain amount of telling so I don’t worry about it unless one of my writer’s group members or beta readers calls me on it.

            How about you? How do you convey information to your reader? Do you use a similar process? Do you have the same hang-ups, the same problems I have or are yours different?

            Until next time, happy writing.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy West permalink
    January 9, 2013 3:16 am

    You have put into words a struggle that I feel at times. I use a combination of narrative and dialogue and although I want to brag about all of the research I’ve done, I have to leave out a lot because I’m writing a historical romance. I don’t want my heroine to turn to the camera and deliver a lecture. Instead, she has to argue with what she feels and fall in love in spite of her “good” sense. The trick is to shoehorn the research into the action.

    • January 10, 2013 3:51 am


      Exactly! You have to convey the information and/or background through the story without making it sound like a lecture or a textbook. The story has to move, it has to be entertaining. It has to grab the reader. I have a perfect example of an adventure/thriller series written by a British archaeologist and unfortunately, it really shows. His stories are supposed to be “fast-paced” but are anything-but. Full-page paragraphs of the characters explaining archaeological or historical minutiae with almost no action at all for twenty to thirty pages. That’s neither fast-paced or the way to grab readers!

      It can be a tough job to do it right. Sprinkle the info out through the action.

      Thanks for your insights!


  2. January 9, 2013 4:26 am


    I understand your feelings about the use of narratives in your story. They can be very strong and exciting if used properly, not necessarily whether they’re long or short, or a combination of narrative and dialogue. In my writings, If three people are involved in a scene, I get into the character of each like that person is the only one in that setting. I get very excited because I become each individual character, with the story flowing and not worried about the consequences of the dialogue and narrative being too long or short. I had written about seven or eight chapters of a fiction novel before my wife died and never wrote after that. I looked at it recently and was surprised the potential it had. I used some of the very elements or techniques mentioned above and realized the story had possibilities before I stopped. I’m so involved with my music I doubt if I’ll ever continue even though the plot and sub-plots are in my mind but would require research I don’t have time for. I don’t think I could sit at the computer for four hours or more a day. As usual your article was very thought-provoking.

    • January 10, 2013 3:54 am


      Thanks for the wonderful background on your start at a novel! It’s too bad you never got a chance to complete it. It sounds like it has plenty of potential. If you ever get that chance again…

      I’m glad you are still enjoying my blathering here!


  3. January 12, 2013 2:23 am


    That’s an excellent article by Holly Kench. Thanks for the link!



  1. Guest post: Thinking About Dialogue, by Holly Kench | Emily's Tea Leaves

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