Put The Story Between The Quotes – How To Change Back Story And Telling Into Dialogue

Beating around the bush is a classic communication style in my family. Inference is something we are all used to and we pick up hints from one another.

Enter that culture at your own risk. Just ask my husband. Not only are we beating around the bush, making inferences and hinting, we also talk about several things at one time. The amazing thing is we don’t get lost in our conversations.

Enter my wonderful husband who is blunt and concise. When we first got married he sat at family functions with a look of awe and strangely enough confusion on his face. There were hints that just defied logic, and he is if anything logical.

It took a while to figure us crazies out, but now he just shakes his head and asks later, “Was that a hint, honey?” I love him for this!

How do we communicate things in our novels? Do we dump in a lot of back story, or do a lot telling versus showing?

Putting The Story Between The Quotes:

Put the story between the quotes. My friend, Rachel Hauck author of The Wedding Dressalways says the story should be told between the quotes. She is so right. That paragraph of back story that your reader needs to know? Put it between the quotes.


Darla found needlepoint dull, not to mention the group of ladies that keep throwing bachelors her way like chicken feed. She’d rejected them, of course. There was nothing worse than a blind date.


Prince Charming didn’t exist. Darla sat with the circle of women twice her age bent over their fabric and thread like it would grace the halls of the White House.

“Did you see that nice young man at church Sunday?” Glenda tilted her head sideways. “Heath I believe was his name.”

Darla rolled her eyes. “You want me to go out with a guy named after a candy bar?”

“Sure was sweet to look at, mmm…mmm.” Emma lifted her head from her needpoint. “You could do worse. Look around you girl. You are thirty. Not getting any younger.”

“I doubt Heath is any more the answer than the ten other bachelors you gals have thrown my way like chicken feed. I’m done with it. No more blind dates. No more match making.” Darla stood and her needlepoint fell to the floor, if you could call it that. A tangle of thread of fabric that resembled a tornado on cloth stared up at her.

“If you’d just learn to be a bit more… docile.” Glenda shook her head.

The group stared at Glenda with frowns.

“What? It’s true. I’m just saying what you all are thinking.” Glenda dropped her gaze, concentrating on her needlepoint.

The story is between the quotes. It is much more powerful. 

Try looking at one of your scenes. Highlight all of the back story and telling that you can find. Then rewrite the scene, putting most of those words into dialogue. I think you will find you like the transformation.

Take a crack at rewriting the following few sentences into dialogue:

Jean hate the subway, it reminded her too much of her father. He worked in the city and they couldn’t afford a car. So every Saturday Jean packed her homework and a few toys and rode the subway.



About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

6 thoughts on “Put The Story Between The Quotes – How To Change Back Story And Telling Into Dialogue

  1. Will have to come back after knitting class. Mondays are not a good thinking day. lol But this was a great post with great ideas on putting the backstory between the quotes!

  2. Michelle Lim says:

    Thanks, Pat! I do understand that whole Monday my brain is dead thing… happens to me too.

  3. Lisa Jordan says:

    Very good post, Michelle. I’ll have to go through my narration and see what I can put in the quotes for a more meaningful story.

  4. Michelle Lim says:

    Thanks, Lisa! You write so beautifully, you will have to look hard.

  5. dtopliff says:

    You’re right, and you have some really great examples there–ones I’ll remember. Thanks.

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