| An Acme Review
This rate and review is offered in the spirit of assistance. Please feel free to ignore any, or all suggestions. This is your work, and I'm just happy to have had the chance to review it!
What are my overall impressions?
I am lucky to be a Rising Stars judge for the dialogue challenge. I hope this review is useful to you. As we are not at the actual deadline yet, please feel free to make any changes you want to following my commentary, and then notify me as soon as possible if you do so, so that I can come back and re-rate/re-review!
First, let me congratulate you on taking the challenge on: writing pure dialogue is a craft that needs graft. It takes a lot of hard work to make dialogue sound natural. In fact, I personally believe dialogue shares more in common with poetry than any other creative writing form, because it isn't meant to be read; it is meant to be spoken and heard. Have you read this aloud? Have you had your friends or family read this out loud? Asking people to read dialogue aloud will give you a chance to explore where your readers hear the voice you intended or if they stumbled--this makes for easier rewrites
Visually, using colour is a great way to distinguish the speakers . One quick thing you can do to make it easier for readers and actors to follow is to double-space return between each speaker. Big space returns make it easier for readers to keep their place when scrolling down a screen or working script-in-hand.
I wasn't sure whether you were offering an example of persuasive dialogue or argumentative dialogue before I read the piece--consider popping that into the brief description field, if you have room, for example:
Is digital art really an art? Persuasive dialogue exercise.
After reading, I considered this dialogue to be an example of persuasive dialogue. You held my interest, although there wasn't much overt tension or suspense. That's not particularly a bad thing in this instance! These two characters get on well, and there are some lovely insights into the relationship between Callie and her uncle, revealed through their interaction. Here, that tension/suspense is much more subtly conveyed and based around an all-too familiar premise: the young being able to teach an old dog new tricks. Age-related gulfs in understanding (socially, politically, technologically) are universal in many cultures, and you capture that tension well by showing us an intimate familial relationship and the sometimes clash between 'new' and 'traditional' ways of doing things. Nicely done. Like I said, subtle.
Your first line is strong. You use so few words to say so much. It's the holy grail of good wordsmithying, especially in dialogue where you cannot afford to waste a single word. A good, strong opening is the best way to capture attention. Not only is this one strong, but you introduce the two characters to the reader straight away so we are completely aware of who these characters are and the basis for them having a relationship. The hello and hug also tell us this is a good relationship. I want to know more. I want to listen in to what they have to say after not seeing each other for so long. Good hook. Good writing. Nice.
So, by the time Callie responds, we know she is Callie and her uncle is Daren. Once this is established, there is no need to use their names again. That might sound a little bizarre, but think about it: when you talk with your mum or your friend, and there's just the two of you, do you use their name throughout your conversation? Probably not. Prose writers (and I am guessing you write short stories) often have to slip character identifiers in, because they use descriptive prose to show us the characters in their situation. Raw dialogue between two people is very different, so remove all the other 'Callie's and 'Uncle's, then read their dialogue out loud to yourself again. Sound more natural? It should
Talking of natural...you know I mentioned that it takes a lot of work to make dialogue sound natural? It also takes a lot of artificiality. Real-life conversations between people are typically very poorly constructed! Lots of erms, well, ums and omissions, and these often don't translate well to writing. I did a research project some years ago, which involved recording interviews and then typing up the transcripts. Oh my, you wouldn't believe how long some sentences could be--one sentence alone took an entire half page of A4, was full of ands, ums and erms, but was a true reflection of the verbal experience. If you fancy recreating the exercise, and your phone has a record mode, record you and your family conversing over dinner and play it back, typing it up as a transcript. You'll be amazed, and you will definitely want to 'tidy' their conversation up. Do that here, too. Your characters use filler words and you want to make every word work to be here. One example you could try in a re-write is to remove all of the 'well's and the sentence-starting 'but's, even if you think they sound like they should be there. Doing so will really tighten your write:
Well, I've become a digital artist since we last spoke.
I've become a digital artist since we last spoke.
Well, um, digital art, is a real art. Just as traditional art is.
"Um, digital art, is a real art. Just as traditional art is.
"But is it really something worth pursuing for a career?"
"But what is a graphics tablet?"
"But why wouldn't you want to do real art?"
The rules of punctuation are very useful, for sure (without following them, I doubt readers would be able to follow what writers were saying and how they wanted to say it). It was live dialogue/playwrights who invented punctuation. Seriously! Greek playwrights wanted their actors to know when to take a little breath or pause for a big one, for emphasis, so the Greeks invented the little breath (comma) and big breath (period). Other than that, it is generally agreed these days that style can be relaxed inside dialogue, so where, for instance, you might have a colon(:) or semicolon(;) in prose, using them in speech could be replaced by an em-dash (--). It's more relaxed and informal, just like people are when they are in conversation. You do a fabulous job of misusing punctuation to great dramatic affect here in the extended 'big breath' pause of the mid-sentence period:
No, it isn't a replacement for traditional art, but it is a separate form. Like the difference between classical music and modern pop music
Watch out, though, for excessive punctuation. An exclamation mark denotes an exclaim, excitement, or shouting. Best to use them sparingly, as using them too often lessens their impact. You have, for example, 4 of them in the first line of dialogue, where only one would be needed and the reset could be exchanged for periods:
Callie! Hello! I haven't seen you in forever! Come give your uncle a hug!
This is a good example of persuasive dialogue. A little time spend editing as mentioned will make it an nice, little, tight write. When you are editing again, fix up the few typos that are in there, too. I won't list them all, but here are a few I noticed:
am still thinking about where to go. I'm thinking about graphics design." = missing "I ...
"It, it is, Uncle. It's just that. = missing is.
Digital art needs it's own special skills. = no need for possessive apostrophe in 'its' (you wouldn't use one in 'his', 'hers', or 'theirs').
I wouldn' know, Cal. = missing t.
Thank you for sharing your work! Write on and take care
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