Writing All Dialogue Stories by Allison Symes

Image Credit:  Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

I sometimes write all dialogue flash fiction. It’s an interesting challenge. It works best kept short. I usually come in at 300 words or under for this kind of writing.

I have a soft spot for writing dialogue so this is fun to do. I have to watch myself for conversational ping-pong as I could get my characters talking and talking and talking! But for this kind of story I can do that and get away with it by keeping it to the point.

These stories are often ones where I know what the last line will be first. This is sometimes a humorous punchline or a twist ending but I then work out my story backwards to get a to a logical starting point. What led to this conversation finishing with this ending?

These tales are best limited to two characters (though I sometimes get either or both to refer to others who are “off stage” but are clearly contributing to the story in their absence). I name my characters early and repeat names usually around the middle of the tale and again at the end. Readers will work things out (but selected repetition of the names is useful).

As with any story, no matter how it is written, there must be a point. The tale must still engage with the reader so they will want to eavesdrop on this conversation. That, I think, is one of the reasons I enjoy writing all dialogue stories.

I sometimes take part in Open Prose Mic Nights. Flash fiction works well for this as you usually have three to five minutes and I can read two or three of my pieces in that time. The all dialogue tales work well for this. People do listen for what your characters are coming out with! 

I don’t use accents. I will use the odd word to reflect a likely accent. I try to show something of my characters’ background through the choice of words they use. What kind of character would use “serendipity” rather than “chance”? (Sometimes I get my characters to reveal something of themselves through the products they use/talk about. What kind of character uses the Lidl’s Rich Tea as opposed to the Waitrose Garibaldi?).

As for swearing, if it’s apt for the character and story, then yes I’ll be put the odd swear word in but only if it meets that criteria. There are certain words I don’t use due to personal taste and my faith but there are plenty of others I can choose from when I want my characters to express themselves forcefully!


And I do have fun writing all dialogue tales where my characters are quarrelling. By the end of the story there must still be a resolution so they will have talked themselves out of the argument or agreed to go their separate ways at the end of it. Either way the issue is resolved.


Griselda Heppel said…
Sounds intriguing. And what a good way to hone the skill of showing character through dialogue alone, ie no background description ('telling' not 'showing'). A good writer should be able to show the speaker's background and education as well as personality traits just by the way he or she speaks. Dickens was brilliant at this (though occasionally he exaggerated but that was very much his era). Think of how differently Joe Gargery, his wife and Pip speak at the beginning of Great Expectations, though they share the same life together.

Great post, thanks for making me think!

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