THE 7 TOOLS OF DIALOGUE

#6 EMPLOY CONFRONTATION.
Many writers struggle with exposition in their novels. Often they heap it on in large chunks of straight narrative. Backstory—what happens before the novel opens—is especially troublesome. How can we give the essentials and avoid a mere information drop?

Use dialogue. First, create a tension-filled scene, usually between two characters. Get them arguing, confronting each other. Then have the information appear in the natural course of things. Here is the clunky way to do it:

John Davenport was a doctor fleeing from a terrible past. He had been drummed out of the profession for bungling an operation while he was drunk.

Instead, place this backstory in a scene in which John is confronted by a patient who is aware of the doctor’s past:

“I know who you are,” Charles said.
“You know nothing,” John said.
“You’re that doctor.”
“If you don’t mind I—”
“From Hopkins. You killed a woman because you were soused. Yeah, that’s it.”

And so forth. This is a much underused method, but it not only gives weight to your dialogue, it increases the pace of your story.

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