I was writing to a friend of mine who is starting to re-think her novel, so I suggested 10-15 early pages of nothing but dialogue.   Only dialogue.  No narrative tags, no scene-despcription.  Just dialogue.

There’s something wonderful, almost sorcerous, about having characters talk to each other w/out an author butting in.  They reveal themselves in ways the writer never imagined.  If you think of authors as puppet-masters, dialogue can sometimes cut the strings and the, in a sense, hostages go off on their own.

Here’s an example I remember from my days at VT. It’s not word-for-word but it’s sure the spirit of the thing:

Version #1 —  Monica felt Owen was way too brave for his own good.   Recklessly brave.  Who knew what could happen to two kids on their own.

Version #2 —

M:  My mother says you’re reckless.
O:  I’m not, either.  I’m just not scared of everything.
M:  I’m not scared of everything.
O:  You’re scared of dust.  You said so.
M:  Dust storms.  That’s different.
O:  There aren’t any dust storms where we’re going.
M:  Which is where exactly?
O:  Away from here, that’s for sure.
M:  On a bus?  Anything can happen on a bus.
O:  Not to two people together.  We’ll look out for each other.

We were in a workshop, okay?  People had taken 10-15 minutes to write out dialogue only, using a flat statement or two from their workshop pieces.

This little transformation got a lot of heat.  Version #1 was really more like a note-to-oneself, a nudge to write more.  #2 was more.  It had vitality and threat and a wonderful mini-exchange in the dust/dust storm lines.  The young woman who wrote it was thrilled and surprised.  She asked “Where did that come from?”

From you, kidddo.  Once you got out of the way.