Friday, June 25, 2021

What I've Learned about Great Dialogue from Thrillers

I love literary fiction, rich nonfiction, travel memoir, all kinds of books, actually, that take me places. Every now and then, I also love a good thriller. I learn from those authors, mostly about tension, pace, and dialogue. It's high-wire stuff, and the dialogue is honed to a sharpness i don't find in a lot of other genres. Sometimes I skim over the visceral parts, but I always study the dialogue.

Dialogue isn't usually the vehicle for momentum in story. Its purpose is to deliver undercurrent, reveal what's not being said. Often, dialogue will let us into the underworld of a character, showing whatever is hidden and secret. Not because this is stated in the dialogue itself, but because it's communicated by the tags (he said, she said) or lack thereof, by the pauses and beats, by the dialect or tone.

In thrillers, the dialogue contributes to pace. The dialogue kicks things into gear.