As You Know, Bob—Cheating with Dialog
I didn’t come up with this term about dialog so I thank whoever in my distant past introduced me to the concept.
What is an As-you-know-Bob? Sometimes, they’re easy to spot. As you know, Bob, I’m short and plump or As you know, Bob, I’m carrying a mysterious package. These are obvious and silly but they can slip into dialog in other ways.
As you know, Bob, my brother and I have not spoken for forty years and this is my attempt at reconciliation.
As you know, Bob, my daughter is really beautiful and attracts all kinds of unwanted attention.
Would this happen in real life? Wouldn’t you get Well, of course I know—why are you telling me again? The characters in your narrative should be no less sharp.
What’s so bad about dialog which is As-you-know-Bob?
Well, as sins of the world go, it’s not right up there. There are more egregious items just in the writing sphere.
Still, it’s a bit of a cheat. It is an economical but not effective way to communicate information the reader needs (e.g. relationship to main protagonist, history of the divorce) by pretending to remind Bob even though he already knows it. Otherwise, why say As you know?.
Let’s take the two examples from above and redo them to avoid the A-Y-K,B.
|You:||My brother called last night.|
|Bob:||Really? How long has it been?|
|You:||God, maybe going on forty years.|
|Bob:||What did he want?|
|You:||Trying to get back in my good graces, I guess.|
|Bob:||So, what are you gonna do?|
|You:||I dunno. Maybe try to meet him half-way.|
Here, Bob knows the situation and can ask intelligent questions which the reader wants to know also. You can move the story forward without telescoping everything into an A-Y-K,B.
|You:||That jerk Dan keeps calling Jenny.|
|Bob:||You don’t like him?|
|You:||He’s just another one after her for her looks.|
|Bob:||There’ve been a few like that, haven’t there?|
Generally speaking, a more vivid way to portray a situation is to use a specific example from which the general conclusion can be drawn. You are pissed about Dan not just about young men in general. Avoiding an A-Y-K,B allows you to put more meat on the fictional bones.
Doesn’t this take longer?
Yes, and what’s your point? Again, the aim is not to get your reader to the end of your piece in record time, but to engage her in what feels like a real world.
As you know, Bob, this is what you want to do. The next post will walk you through identifying and fixing A-Y-K-Bs in your writing.