“Where’ve you been?” he demanded eagerly. “Daisy’s furious because you haven’t called up.”
“This is Mr Gatsby, Mr Buchanan.”
They shook hands briefly, and a strained, unfamiliar look of embarrassment came over Gatsby’s face.
“How’ve you been anyhow?” demanded Tom of me.
“How’d you happen to come up this far to eat?”
“I’ve been having lunch with Mr Gatsby.”
I turned toward Mr Gatsby, but he was no longer there.
(F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)
Dialogue is the writer’s greatest of tools when it comes to revealing character.
But Fitzgerald does something more here, by using this dialogue between Tom Buchanan and Nick to give us insight into Gatsby.
While it’s true that this brief conversation tells us about Nick’s relationship with Tom and Daisy, it also speaks volumes about Gatsby’s relationship with them; not because Gatsby says anything, but rather because of his actions.
Fitzgerald is brilliantly pumping this ‘chance’ exchange by peppering action into dialogue.
Dialogue then, is not only about conversation. Depending on where the dialogue is set to take place, it sets a scene for much more, providing the writer with the opportunity to set the stage for something deeper.
For more on how you can get the most out of dialogue, see The 7 Tools of Dialogue.