Wicked Wednesday- Prose and Cons

Jessie: Enjoying the first blooms of spring!

As we continue our discussion of prose and cons I offer up this quote by one of my favorite authors, P.G. Wodehouse:

“Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a big slab of prose at the start.”

So Wickeds, do you agree or disagree with that statement? Is early dialogue a strategy you employ in your own writing?

Julie: Another great question, and a great quote. I usually have early dialogue, but sometimes it’s internal dialogue. And if it’s the first book in the series, there will be more prose to start, since you have to place the reader. One thing for sure–I will pay more attention to dialogue placement for myself, and for the books I read.

Liz: I definitely like to jump right in with dialogue. It definitely propels the story forward, and it is one of my favorite things to write – I find it really fun. I also agree with Julie’s caveats above. Sometimes inner dialogue is necessary to set the stage.

Barb: I agree with this quote. (And probably wouldn’t disagree with anything much Wodehouse said about writing.) I LOVE writing dialog. For me, it’s the easiest thing to write and really gets those words down on the page. Dialog reveals character, reveals situation and reveals setting. There isn’t much it can’t do.

Sherry: I went back through some of my books and the dialogue gets earlier and earlier as I wrote more. Like Barb, I love writing dialogue, but I also like to use a lot of inner dialogue. I always loved Robert B. Parker’s books because they are so focused on dialogue.

Edith/Maddie: I also love writing dialogue. My latest two published books both start with it. I remember when I wrote the start of A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, my second mystery, for my Local Foods proposal, I started with several pages of prose setting up the scene. Those ended up on the edit-room floor, so to speak. “Come to the party late and leave early” is a great rule of thumb, and what is a party if not dialogue?

Readers, do you love books that are heavy on dialogue? Why or why not?

24 Thoughts

  1. What a great quote. And yet I remember reading one of those DON’T lists for opening a book and dialogue was listed in the top 5. I believe the reasoning was the reader had no context. Good point but I do love dialogue and believe getting to it sooner rather than later is a good thing. (Also thinking I need to rewrite the opening scene of my WIP.)

  2. I have always been in favor of more dialogue than prose, especially after reading Proust in college! Robert Parker could set the stage with his dialogue and a few lines of prose better than most. You can certainly start with dialogue as long as you set the stage soon after.

  3. As an example of basing a “pulp short story” on mostly dialogue, author and writing teacher James Scott Bell wrote SUCKER PUNCH. Part of the Irish Jimmy Gallagher Stories, it gets to dialogue early and sticks with it through the bulk of the book. Excellent inspiration for those who want to maximize the use of dialogue.

  4. I love writing dialogue – and it’s one thing people compliment me on a lot. “Your characters sound like real people.” So yes, I get to the dialogue as quickly as possible when writing.

    I like it in books, but not if it’s so heavy it becomes “talking heads” and I lose track of who is saying what.

  5. Isn’t it always the dialogue that starts taking place in your head before you put anything on paper? Maybe I’ll take that back since sometimes a lone character is on the page and we are trying to see what they see and think! Again, rules are correct for the people who write the rules!

  6. It certainly depends on the nature of the book, but I love reading dialogue as long as I can keep track of who is speaking. It makes the pace of the book much quicker and keeps me interested. Obviously, some prose is necessary for setting the scene and describing physical surrounding, and, if well written, can be lovely to read.

  7. I love writing dialogue and try to get to it as soon as possible. I do find, however, that a few lines of action (as opposed to descriptive passages) to set the scene works as a good starting place for my first chapter’s dialogue.

      1. Julie made a valid point by saying that there has to be some prose at the beginning in order to introduce the reader to what is going on. Still, dialogue is very important to me! I hate to read line after line of descriptions when nothing is happening. Dialogue gives the reader some insight into the character’s thinking.

  8. Yes to dialogue early and often. We need to have the scene set for us. We need to have the sleuth finding clues in a scene. But dialogue really propels a story forward, so it’s my favorite thing to read. And it can really draw us into a story quickly, too.

  9. So interesting. I must have read the same list as Annette. I like to get to dialogue early, but do need first of the series needs prose at the git go to set the scene. Like much else in writing (and life) it’s all about the balance.

  10. It is not an answer one way or another. It would depend on the story. Some demand more dialog than others. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

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