Show Business

For the past two weeks, I have found myself writing the first drafts of scenes entirely in dialogue without any narrative, exposition, description, or even tags to indicate who is speaking. Then I go back and fill in the details in a second pass through the scene.

I think I developed this habit because I was trying to do a better job of show don’t tell, but it’s helped me learn about how I imagine scenes in my head. First, I hear them and then I see them. While it takes several passes, I feel like I get to layer this way, like adding more and more paint to the canvas. It’s made me feel that perhaps the dialogue is the key element for me as a writer. But know that I need to get over my fear of writing narrative and description, because they can be part of active, show-y writing as much as dialogue.

Do you write scenes start to finish in one pass or do you write them over several sittings, focusing on different elements each time?

Author: Emma

Emma Barry is a teacher, novelist, recovering academic, and former political staffer. She lives with her high school sweetheart and a menagerie of pets and children in Virginia, and she occasionally finds time to read and write.

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