Fri 29 May 2009
AT EVERY DAY FICTION, we get a lot of “Dialogue-only” stories. These are stories with zero description, just (at minimum) two characters talking to each other.
I can count on one hand how many of them we’ve ever accepted (and have fingers to spare).
The biggest reason for rejection? Both voices sound the same. With dialogue-only stories, you’re basically saying as a writer that you’re so good at writing dialogue that you don’t need all that mundane stuff like description, setting, and plot. You can do it all in the spoken word. Well, if you can’t even make two character sound different from each other, you’re in trouble. As an editor, I should be able to point to a random line of dialogue and say, “Oh, that’s character A speaking.” I can tell because of his/her (way of speaking/accent/personality/etc).
Other good reasons for rejection are:
- You’ve inserted a random line of description at the end. If you have description at all, you need it everywhere. Otherwise it just looks like you tried to write a dialogue only story and failed.
- More than two characters. Two is hard enough. I’ve never seen a successful dialogue only story with three characters. The reader just gets confused.
- Info dumps. Just because it’s in dialogue, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.
- The story sucks. A “clever” format like dialogue-only can’t save this.
Dialogue-only pieces make for great exercises, but poor stories. Disagree? Prove me wrong. And then submit that proof to EDF’s slush pile.
Jordan Lapp is the managing editor of Every Day Fiction. He is a member of both the Codex and Spec 24 writing groups. He recently won first place in the prestigious Writers of the Future contest. In 2007, he decided to combine his love of blogging with his passion for fiction and became a founding member of Every Day Fiction. He blogs at http://www.jordanlapp.com/withoutreallytrying/.