Dialogue or Description

The amount of dialogue and/or description you use in your novel depends, on your genre, point of view, and audience.

I have been told that publishers flick through the first chapter of a manuscript and if the balance between dialogue and description is not right, they won’t even read the first page. Try this on any physical book, it is easy to do, just flick through the pages and longer paragraphs of description will immediately jump out – not so easy for an electronic book where formatting often requires shorter paragraphs.

Therefore, if you plan to be traditionally published, it is crucial to get the balance right. If you are self-publishing, you can do whatever your audience/you like.

Literary Fiction will definitely require more description than dialogue, as will High Fantasy and Hard Science Fiction, genres.

Young Adult generally requires a faster pace, so more dialogue will help push the story along. Also the description may be attached to the dialogue rather than in separate paragraphs (see below).

The first person present tense point-of-view, in which I’m currently writing my Nina Swift series, requires more dialogue as you are constantly inside the point-of-view character’s head. Also, I find it useful to attach the description to the dialogue instead of identifiers, as this pushes this Young Adult story along even faster. Have a look at examples on my website or on my Wattpad pages to get an idea of what I mean.

Recently I had a go at Text Publishing a short story, which requires pure dialogue. Any description has to be included within the dialogue spoken by a character. challenging, but fun.

If in doubt, always try to achieve an even balance between dialogue and description. When you want the story to increase in pace, use more dialogue/shorter paragraphs, and when you want to slow the story down, used more description/longer paragraphs. If your novel is the same pace throughout, your readers will either get exhausted or bored.


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