Weekend Reading Assignment posts feature book recommendations from Undertaker Books staff. These books are short enough to be read in a weekend, but give strong examples of how to execute important skills in writing.

This week’s Weekend Reading Assignment is from D.L. Winchester, recommending Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid.

Writing dialogue is hard.

Writing a whole book using nothing but dialogue to tell the story is, well, insanity. If I told a writer friend I was going to write a book using nothing but dialogue, I would expect them to take me gently by the hand and lead me to the nearest insane asylum. And yet, Stephen King tells the story of the Colorado Kid in the form of a conversation, and the result is brilliant, including the kind of ending that makes you want to go to Maine and demand an explanation for the choices he made. 

So what can you learn from the master?

  1. Keep your characters animated.

Even though the story is told through dialogue, the conversation and actions flow naturally over the course of an afternoon. They don’t just sit there as “talking heads,” they do human things. In the course of the afternoon, they go outside to sit on the deck, get drinks from the kitchen, return to their desks, all human motions that break up the monotony of endless dialogue.

  1. Choose the right number of characters.

There are three main characters in the story, two teachers and one student. Being able to use two teachers to present information keeps the story from getting state and provides for a wider perspective for the reader.

  1. The relationship between the characters is crucial.

You can’t just throw three people in a room and expect something like this to work. In The Colorado Kid, the characters had established a mentor-mentee triangle, and it enabled King to progress the story not just by the mentee asking questions, but also by the mentors guiding the mentee to know what to ask. The relationship is comfortable, the interaction is comfortable, and it makes for a compelling story.

So, am I going to suggest you go out and write a story like The Colorado Kid? 

Probably not.

But you should read it, paying attention to King’s dialogue, and see what you can apply to your own writing. And if the ending frustrates you as much as it did me, well, it’s A Long Walk to Maine…

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