Week 3 of the online course How to Read a Novel is complete! If you’re interested in reading how I experienced the first half of the course, you can read about week 1 and week 2.

week 3 readers high tea

The main theme of the third week was dialogue and what it reveals about characters. Here are the most interesting ideas I found out:

§ Dialogue as characterization tool: the way characters speak plays an important role and indicates what type of person they are, including hints about their personality, background, education, social status, and so on.

§ Main types of dialogue: well, in case you were thinking there is only one type of dialogue, here are 3 instruments used by authors for conversations:

austen readers high teatraditional dialogue – when each new line of speech by a different character is given a new line on the page. It is clear who is speaking, the narrator offers details about the dialogue (e.g. “she whispered”, “said angrily”), and readers often feel like witnessing a real conversation. An example was read from “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen

dialogue without narrator’s intervention – the narrator does not offer details about the dialogue, and it is upon the reader to read between the lines and pay attention to subtle moments

> dialogue written as spoken – the narrator is absent, there are no quotation marks, and characters’ lines of speech are not given a new line

An example of the latter type of dialogues given during the lectures is the following excerpt from “The Lesser Bohemians” by Eimear McBride:

“Later he packs an old duffel bag. Can I stay over? Yeah alright, but I have an early start. Is that the truth? It’s a half-seven train. How long are you away this time? Two weeks. Same film? Luckily, not. Was it really that bad? It really was.”

Things can get even more complicated when talking about dialogue, for example:

… dialogue can be interwoven with thoughts and other personal commentaries, making it more difficult to understand what is spoken and what is thought (like the stream of consciousness technique)

… long blank spaces left between words (such as “I mean     you know     I want to go”) signal pauses in the conversation

… words aren’t always assigned to a speaker, and the readers should deduce who is speaking

stream-of-consciousness readers high tea

§ The politics of dialect: using dialect increases the realism of the story, while also carrying values and principles through spoken words. One of the examples given for the use of dialect is George Eliot’s, “Silas Marner”.

lesser bohemians readers high tea

The book proposed to dig into the dialogue techniques described above is “The Lesser Bohemians” by Eimear McBride. It is a story narrated in the first person, using the stream of consciousness “whereby words, thoughts, and narrative commentary are pushed together in the same sentence, blurring freely into each other without obstruction.

Now I’m heading full speed toward week 4, the final week of the course! If you want to join the online course, you can sign up here for free.

‘Till next time … happy reading!


Images: Amazon.co.uk | WrongHands1.com | PenguinRandomHouse.org | Cover picture by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Learning to be a better reader: How to Read a Novel (online course) #week3

    1. Yes, definitely! Some of the concepts discussed are familiar from my high school Literature classes, but it’s very interesting to think about them now (almost 10 years later) … especially because I read a lot since then and I can easily think of examples for the notions presented during the course.

      Liked by 1 person

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