I recently took several pages from my work in process to a critique meeting. They
are a great bunch of
writers, lots of fun, and intuitive.
I liked the scene, which had lots of dialogue and showed the characters moving and interacting in the sheriff’s office of a western town. It was more of a transitional scene between two scenes with lots of tension and drama.
For the most part everyone liked the writing, but one member said that for him it fell flat and didn’t seem to have the energy my stuff usually has. He couldn’t put his finger on the problem, but I trusted his instincts. We talked it out and we realized I had missed one of the key reasons we write dialogue—to move the story forward.
Every bit of dialogue we write should be used to show character, mood, tension, conflict and growth. It needs to contribute to the story through the characters, through back story or pacing. My scene didn’t make anyone laugh or cry or scream. It didn’t raise any new questions and the only reason anyone would be turning pages would be to skip ahead.
I can usually find mistakes like this in other people’s work, but sometimes I just can’t see the forest for the trees.