Conversation Maps

Have you ever gotten to a point in your writing when you’ve got these characters that are required to have a conversation in order to convey a nice chunk of exposition that will move the plot forward, often significantly? It’s usually at the points of major revelations and/or developments in character/character relationships. And oftentimes, there’s quite a bit of ground to cover, especially in a first draft, when things often get lumped together unevenly and haphazardly piled on. Hopefully this will get slimmed and trimmed down in editing, but it helps if beforehand, key points in the conversation are outlined, just to prevent tangential wandering in the dialogue.

What I like to do–or at least, what I’ve found I like to do–is to create a “conversation map”, and I think that’s more or less self-explanatory, but basically what it is, is a diagram of all those key talking points in the conversation, mapped out to visually represent the flow of the dialogue, how it would naturally go from one topic to the next. Because then you can play with conversational links and transitions so that when the two people* are sharing this expository exchange of ideas, it feels less like a talking-heads report of information and more like a real give-and-take conversation that just happens to reveal information essential to the plot or the development of one or both of the characters, or of the relationship between the characters.

I’ve just used it for my rewrite of one my novel drafts, and it’s proving to be one of many grand improvements to the original manuscript. A smaller one, granted, but significant nonetheless. Every piece of the story, no matter how small, is important. Treat it all with care. And a “conversation map” is one of those happy little tools I think personally is great for giving that kind of care and attention to a massive work such as a novel, while at the same time increasing the efficiency of the initial writing.

Go ahead, give it a try. And, as always, happy writing. ;D

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*usually there’s two for something that requires this much focus on substance, but sometimes there’s three, and/or maybe some secondary characters floating around in the background

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