When I sent Wounded Bride to be edited, the book was full of long sections consisting of nothing but characters talking to each other.
In that story, the detectives talk to suspects, and you’d expect there to be lots of dialog, but it should be broken up by actions, sentences about what your characters are thinking, or about what they’re feeling.
If your story is in the first person, you can only know what your main character is thinking and/or feeling, but no matter your point of view, you can always use actions, thoughts, and feelings to break up chunks of dialog.
Actions. It doesn’t have to be exciting.
She took a sip of coffee.
John raised his hand.
Outside, a plane droned in the humid air.
The last sentence isn’t an action performed by a character, but auditory or visual stimuli can break up your dialog effectively, and you can decide if those happenings are relevant to your story or not.
Does the plane crash?
Or is it just passing by?
Maybe one of your characters is on it.
Maybe it’s just background noise that interrupts a stream of dialog.
Thoughts and feelings.
“I told you,” Jason said. “I’m not coming home, so don’t pester me.”
His voice was quiet but firm, and the whole thing made me feel so sad.
I knew there was no point, but I had to keep trying. After all, he’d been my husband for the last four years.
“Maybe we can talk to somebody. You know, get some help. Maybe we just need to do something differently, you know?”
I hated the whiny, childish tone I could hear in my voice, but I didn’t seem to be able to stop it.
“No. It’s over. You should receive the papers in the next few weeks.”
The papers. By that, he meant the divorce papers.
We’d had a pretty good marriage, at least for the first three years, but then Ruth, his high school sweetheart, had been widowed at twenty-six, and he’d gone straight to her.
How stupid I’d been to believe that he was only there to console her. Console her. Right. It wasn’t like he was dead or anything, not like her husband, but now I was losing him, and it didn’t feel much different, except he was killing me on purpose.
“Are you still there?”
He was the one who wasn’t there for me, so why was he asking?
I knew I should have cared about her, been sorry for her loss, all that sympathetic crap, but I just wasn’t.
What did Ruth think of all this?
“I’m sorry, but I have to choose, and I choose Ruth.”
“Fine. I’ll see you in court.”
That wasn’t supposed to happen, but while I was writing this passage, I decided I wanted to write this fledgeling story.
This is the beginning of it, not a passage somewhere in the middle.
I’ll call it “Ruth.”