The truth cannot hide...

Making the ordinary extraordinary… Dialogue in fiction


 

In this extract from The Great Gatsby, I’ve taken out the extra description and insights in the characters’ thoughts and feelings. (With apologies to F Scott Fitzgerald)

‘Oh, hello, old sport,’ he said.

‘It’s stopped raining.’

‘Has it?’ He repeated the news to Daisy. ‘What do you think of that? It’s stopped raining.’

‘I’m glad, Jay.’

I think you will agree that this reads as a rather dull, and flat – even banal bit of dialogue. What’s the point of it? I has no emotional charge, and it doesn’t move the story on.

The best way to make your characters come alive is have your characters DO things. It should be possible to picture the scene and feel with the protagonists.

Give your characters mannerisms (but not too many!) e.g. Gatsby’s ‘old sport’. Give us insight into their thoughts or feelings. So, here’s that same passage, with Fizgerald’s magic reinstated.

“There was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room .

‘Oh, hello, old sport,’ he said, as if he hadn’t seen me for years. I thought for a moment he was going to shake hands.

‘It’s stopped raining.’

‘Has it?’ When he realised what I was talking about, that there were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weatherman, like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light, and repeated the news to Daisy. ‘What do you think of that? It’s stopped raining.’

‘I’m glad, Jay.’ Her throat full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy.”

There’s action, emotion, a sense of place – and a hint at something deeper between Gatsby and Daisy.


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