“Speak only if it improves upon the silence”

That’s a quote from Gandhi, and it’s how the fiction teacher opened her lecture this morning at the Antioch Writer’s Workshop. 

I often find that writing lectures are life lectures. This morning, our teacher told us that in fiction (and in nonfiction), dialogue should only be used when it advances the story, reveals character, and is interesting.

Now seriously, isn’t that a little like good life advice? I start to think about people who talk too much, who talk over other people, spilling the tiny contents of their life into other’ people’s laps when they might not want them. Have I done that? My guess is I have. I’ve rambled to fill in the gaps when I was nervous, uncomfortable with silence, wanting to say something rather than let the silence fill the void.

For you writers out there, it’s good advice. And for anyone else, it’s something to consider.