I wrote pages and pages of notes when I attended the workshop with writer/agent Donald Maass. He spent a great deal of time on dialogue. He mentioned the 'he said/she said,' days are over. 21st Century writing requires more with less words.
During the workshop, each participant chose a scene in their WIP to rewrite the dialogue. He requested we create a scene that conveys anger, insults, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, etc. The scene below is what I wrote:
Tracy peered out the window. "I don't see anything."
"Hmm, If you'd only look. It's happening right there."
"No, it's not. There's nothing there. Is this a prank?"
He tossed her the binoculars. "Here. Hurry. I have to go to gone and departed."
He cleared his throat. "Look again."
"Oh good, Lord. What is that?"
"You asked to see and now you have. Now go home."
Then he asked us to delete more from the scene. I thought this was a pretty tight scene already. But I slashed away and came up with this:
"I don't see anything."
"It's happening right there."
"There's nothing there."
He tossed her the binoculars. "Look again."
"What is that?"
"You asked to see. Now leave."
Is this better? I don't know at this point. But I understand the exercise to create tension and emotion in the dialogue without using obvious direction. I may never use this scene in my WIP, but I will use the tool in future dialogues. I don't need to say, 'he said/she said,' after every spoken word. Editors have become sticklers for tighter dialogue and this exercise will help in creating fresher scenes.
If you find a scene in your WIP that drags, try this exercise. Think of a sculptor nicking away the clay or marble to reveal the sculpture he wants to create. The tension is in your writing, it's merely hidden beneath too many words.
Til next time ~