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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dialog Tutorial

If you want a tutorial on dialog, may I suggest reading Ivy Compton-Burnett's A House and its Head? Published in 1935, it's the sixth of Compton-Burnett's twenty novels, and is one of her two favorites from her own work.

The story is told almost entirely in dialog, and yet you hardly notice this fact, as the writing flows so beautifully. You never get descriptions from the author, only from the characters as they talk to one another, and yet there is no awkwardness, no stilted conversations or observations put there more for the reader's benefit than for the speakers'. Very natural talking, and yet so much ground gets covered. And so much snark too! Hilarious snarkiness.

Compton-Burnett was one of twelve children, none of whom produced an heir. In fact, none of the eight sisters married at all. This fact fascinates me.

A few quotes from her work:
 "It is a pity when we cannot judge by the surface, when it is so often arranged for us to judge by it." — from Mother and Son

"People cannot really give at all. They can only exchange."
  — from Daughters and Sons  (Note: this is a truly Japanese sentiment!)

"All institutions have the same soul."
 — from A Heritage and Its History

"It is the future we must look to," said Constance. "It is useless to pursue the past."
"It is needless," said Audrey. "It will pursue us."
— from A Father and His Fate

All but two of her titles follow this pattern: A and B. She must have found it tried and true.

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