1. Ferret
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    Ferret Contributing Member

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    Actions Vs. Dialogue

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ferret, Dec 6, 2006.

    Well, this has been a bit of a debate with me and a few of my friends; which is a better tool for characterization? One of my friends seems to beleieve that since actions can speak louder than words that actions are better for devolping a character in a story(novel, something of length-short storys are a little different). He is also of the opinion that words are over used in books and that for a person to get a true grasp of a character they need actions to support their words.
    I think that words are better because they're used more often-the way most people I know write at least. A fact can be subtly, I just know I spelt that wrong, thrown into the story several tiems over. I also think that actions are ued most effectivly in dramatic situations, they will add a lot to the character but can only be used once and a while-for dramatic things at least.
    Ive always prefered conversations to reveal things about my character what do you people think?
     
  2. Spherical Time
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    Spherical Time Contributing Member

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    I agree with your friend. Even though I think there are certain things that can only be expressed through words, I think that actions are a better way to characterize.
     
  3. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    Action and dialogue are both used for characterisation. Arguing about which is 'best' is pointless.
     
  4. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    I'd hate to use the stock answer here but I guess it's going to serve a purpose. It depends on the needs of your story and how you're conveying the information to the reader. Only you will know this through gaining experience.

    In ways, only actions, and sometimes only the basic ones, are necessary to show characterisation. Others, dialogue will suffice.

    Don't forget the type of contradictory type of personality within complex characters, that being the type of people who say one thing but behave contradictory to their words, such as a guy who says he loves his wife but slaps her round the chops. What would that say about his character do you think?

    As a species it is agreed in some anthropological circles that we only use speech as a mere 5% of our total outward communication expression. The rest is done in big or tiny examples of body languge that we only pick up on subconsciously. I agree with that.
    Even though we are writing fiction, we still have to use realistic characters with realistic human behaviours to communicate our thoughts and feelings through stories.

    I think there are four complete dimensions within drama:

    Physical - dramatic situations that exist in the outer sphere of the character, such as another person, the elements (nature) et al (most stories use this model).

    Emotional - as an example, if you've seen the film Good Will Hunting you'll know what this means.

    Psychological - a story whereby the protagonist is only imprisoned by nothing other than himself.

    Spiritual.

    All other examples of drama are taken form those four 'big daddies'. So be wary with how you portray information with either words or actions.

    Have fun.
     
  5. chase42
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    chase42 Member

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    someone said "Actions speak louder than words." It wasn't intended to be writing advice, but because dialogue can only be used in certain situations, that pretty much sums up my style.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both action and dialogue can be used as methods of indirect characterization

    (INDIRECT CHARACTERIZATION - the writer reveals information about a character and his personality through that character's thoughts, words, and actions, along with how other characters respond to that character, including what they think and say about him...and act toward him.)

    I am not sure either way is better. It would depend on the situation, POV, level and type of character interaction, etc. In most instances a combination would be best.

    Actions can be paired with motivations...and dialogue can be paired with judicious word choice to be even more effective when the opportunity exists.

    Terry
     
  7. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    :) I find it unusually quaint that we distinguish between action versus words when we write. For most of us simply use nothing but words and not pictures.
     
  8. Kane
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    Kane New Member

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    Yes... for a writer, words are everything. But, the words you choose to use paint a picture. Just as with painting a picture, some techniques work better in certain places than other. Just experiment until your words paint the picture you want people to see.

    Character development, as with plot, can be done through narration or dialogue, though I don't think either can be said to be inherently better. Which to use is up to you, and you can achieve a different mood to your writing, depending on which you decide to use and where.
     
  9. Evelyn
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    Evelyn Senior Member

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    I know he meant "dialogue," and even there are books in which many (if not most) of the words used are wasted; but since books are really nothing but words arranged in sequence, this still made me smile :)


    As to the question:
    IMO, the speaking of dialogue is an action, one of the many you have to choose from to illustrate your characters.

    If you've got a "Chatty Cathy" type character, she's going to speak a lot of dialogue and you might as well make it characterize her (or him :).

    If you've got a Strong Silent Type, then he's not going to say much and you'll have to use mostly action to fill him in.

    And if Strong & Silent is in love with Chatty Cathy but would sooner undergo torture than to speak his feelings aloud, then you really need to rely on his actions.

    - Evelyn
     
  10. HellOnEarth
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    HellOnEarth Banned

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    Why is this even a question? Look. If you want to be a competent writer, you can only write dialouge. (Hi, there script-writers!) If you want to be a medicore writer, then the only thing you're good at is writing action. Now, a good writer can write both dialouge and action with ease. But a genius--a master--can do both, and suck the readers with their writing. How many of you here are geniuses? I thought so. Just call me sir or sire--either one's alright. Read and learn from me, all ye faithfuls:

     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no 'better' or 'worse' [other than re the writing quality itself]... it's purely a matter of what 'works' in each case!
     
  12. Stinger
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    Stinger Senior Member

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    I prefere dialouge. When almost all of my stories is only going through talkings.
     
  13. krosangnomelord
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    krosangnomelord Member

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    Good, still only 2 pages. Maybe I might get my short word in.

    Dialogue, I feel can best be used to represent how a person acts in public.

    Action, I believe can show what someone might do alone or when the time calls for it, they might show their true feelings.

    I think of dialogue as more of the deception tool; action can be used in that point of revelation.

    Just me
     

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