Avoid mime conversations in dialogue

Dialogue in fiction ought to be tight and punchy, but sometimes when penning or editing it, writers go overboard. The result is a choppy flow to the narration as well as text that is robbed of its emotive powers.

This problem is known as mime conversation.

At first glance, such dialogue looks like it’s really ominous and significant. It’s all pretend, though.

Consider the following example of mime conversation: 

“But I heard what–”

“And that meant she would!”

“But…but…how could I have been–”

“Wrong? You weren’t. You just weren’t ri–”

“Of course. It’s all so clear to me now.”

But it’s probably not so clear to readers. That’s because the facts readers must know to understand what is meant are neither stated nor inferred. The convoluted flow of the characters’ statements even is laughable. The result is that the author robs the reader of the emotional conflict that is a key underpinning of good fiction.

CSFW’s David Smith coined the term.