Year of Craft: Buried Dialogue

I ran across the concept of “buried dialogue” a few weeks ago the How to Write a Page Turner lecture.  I hadn’t heard of it really much before .. or rather, what I did hear was, well, buried.

It’s in one of my craft books, mentioned in passing, buried in a paragraph about other things.  In fact, I found very little on it at all.  This is one of the few posts (counting on one hand two) that discussed it at all.

What it is:

When you have a bunch of narrative, then some dialogue, and then some more narrative.  So …

Narrative.  Narrative.  Narrative. Narrative.  Dialogue.  Narrative.  Narrative.  Narrative. Narrative.

Or …

Narrative. Narrative.  Dialogue.  Narrative.  Narrative.  Dialogue.  Narrative.

Yup. I’ve been guilty of doing exactly that in my fiction.

For those readers who like to skim dialogue, that’s a piece of dialogue that would get missed entirely.  As a visual spatial, I hop on words rather than reading from word to word, so it’s possible I would miss it, too.  Hmm.  That does explain times when a book has lost me …

Anyways, since not burying dialogue is technique seen at the best seller level, I looked for it while I was typing up Michael Connelly’s The Reversal (first three chapters).  What I found was more like:

Narrative.  Narrative.  Narrative. Narrative.


Narrative.  Narrative.

It’s also a pacing thing, a skill that I eventually want to work on.  But pacing is such a big skill area that I want to whittle away at it with other areas like dialogue and narrative first.

When I try thinking differently about this, it makes me think not only about the dialogue but the narrative itself.  These is a lot of narrative that gets in as, really, a placeholder (e.g., he nodded, she sighed).

So I’m playing with it on both my current short story March of the Gulls and my science fiction novel, book 2 to Crying Planet.