Narrative or Dialogue? Is this the question?
Or should the question be more open? After all, there isn’t just narrative or dialogue or ratios of both in a speech or a writing. A speech is a wholesome and holistic collection of many elements. It would have to be fairly narrow to have just narrative and dialogue and very cleverly written, like a screenplay, to have suitable effect with your audience. Then the question becomes, was that a play or a speech?
According to H. Porter Abbott’s “The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative,”
is best defined as “the representation of an event or a series of events.” Thus, to be considered narrative, the prose must describe some action or occurrence significant to the story. For example, “Harry is covered in acne,” is a description, but “Harry scratched at his acne,” is narrative. Does that mean a Narrative example equals Description + Action?
Narrative elements are all the aspects that make up a story. They include the setting, theme, plot, characters, point of view, tone, and imagery or symbolism
Dialogue is most easily defined as a “conversation of two or more people.” However, dialogue can also exist in scenes when a character is alone and talking to himself, or if only one of the characters present is speaking. So dialogue may be more precisely defined as words spoken aloud by a character in a scene as indicated by quotation marks. Narrative or dialogue? In a novel, dialogue serves to bring a sense of realness and immediacy to scenes by letting readers “eavesdrop” on characters.
Carla nodded. ‘He’s passed his sell-by date if you ask me’.
Introducing that small movement ‘Maria looked up from her work.’ immediately
pops a picture into the readers mind and activates their imagination.
Imagine two characters having a heated argument. To break this up you could say
‘A removal lorry shuddered to a halt in the street outside followed by the blare of a
horn from an angry motorist. Ronald stomped over to the window and closed it with a
This gives us movement and description, not only of the character Ronald, but of
the traffic outside, which, incidentally, also echoes the turmoil going on inside.
Too Little Dialogue
If you find you are filling up page after page with too much narrative you may need
to ask yourself these questions:
Does this piece of narrative add to the storyline or is it superfluous?
Would the story or plot suffer if I left it out altogether?
You may love to describe the start of a new day with three paragraphs of purple
prose but these could be saved by simply saying:
‘Gail drew back the curtains and sighed dispiritedly as she took in the grey clouds
and pouring rain.’
suspense, romance, excitement, or desire, engaging the reader in your characters’ situation.
Your job is to create a world that unfolds before the eyes of your audience. We want to hear people speak and see what they do, so that we may intuit what causes their behavior and where it might lead. With the well-tuned interplay of dialogue and narration, you can create scenes that sizzle with joy, su
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