August 10, 2007, Newsletter Issue #122: Using dialogue to flesh out characters

Tip of the Week

One simple way of providing information about characters, particularly the POV character, is to drop it subtly into a line of speech from another character.

This example, from Shirley Jacksonīs story "ELIZABETH", shows us how another character views the narrator:

"When {Elizabeth} came to her stop...and when she reached the door, the woman was near it, staring at her as though wanting to remember her face. "Dried-up old maid," the woman said loudly, and the people around her in the bus laughed." p.154

In this way, the author reveals information about Elizabeth that she could not reveal for herself--that she has gotten old before her time and, as the rest of the story bears out, has moments of extreme pretension.

Experiment with injecting character detail into dialogue.

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