“As you know, Bob”‘s first cousin “As you can clearly see, Becky.”

“As you can clearly see, Becky,” is to description and direct thought what “As you know, Bob” is to information dumps and backstory. Both are ways to tell the audience what is/has happened and in the days of radio broadcasts, the characters needed to describe what they saw to people who could not see what was going on due to a limitation on the medium.

Having two characters describe what’s going on as though trying to explain to a third person who is not standing there, looking at the same thing the characters are looking at is almost invisible in fiction. It’s taken as a given that the format works. But I’ve always had something trigger in stories that are 90% dialogue, and it wasn’t until I read a couple stories where it was very obvious that the dialogue was for the reader’s sake and not for the characters in the moment that I was able to name the problem.

Conversation isn’t dialogue and dialogue isn’t conversation. But I think putting more of what is told to the character to inform the reader through the point of view of the character and having the characters only discuss what would be naturally discussed in moments of awe or high tension can only make stories better. I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point where no one ever uses dialogue as a tell, and that’s okay. In the right moment, it can work.

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