Like any good writer and editor, I am constantly trying to improve my knowledge and understand of story craft. Right now, I’m taking a developmental editing class online, which includes a review of some of basic issues that often plague new writers: showing vs. telling, info dumbs, head hopping, etc.

During the section on dialog, the instructor warned editors to watch out for dialog that doesn’t reveal anything about the characters or move the story along. The kind of introductory nonsense we say to people when we first start conversing:

“Hey, good to see you!”
”You too! How’s it going?”
”Just fine, thanks. How are you?”

I can’t even come up with a longer example of this kind of chat because it’s so boring. I’m not a big fan of small talk in real life, either, a fact that I’ve always attributed to my being an introvert. Oh, I can talk about the weather or music or current events, but I become quickly bored, which is why I prefer to avoid situations where I’ll have to talk about those sorts of things for extended amounts of time. I don’t dislike talking to people, but I want to talk about things that are interesting to me, at a depth that most social occasions don’t allow.

But today it struck me that maybe the reason I hate small talk is not because I’m introvert, but because I’m a reader. A lifetime of consuming stories has conditioned me to only appreciate conversation when it reveals something meaningful about someone or advances the plot. Most small talk does not — if fact, it’s fair to say that small talk is designed to keep exactly that from happening.

Unfortunately, I can’t cut small talk out of real life. My coworkers would be disconcerted if the first thing I said to them on Monday morning was not, “How was your weekend?” But instead, “When was the last time you experienced a moment of true awe?”

You can, however, cut the boring books out of your fiction. Maybe that’s the real reason I like reading and writing so much.

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