1. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Augmented Dialogue Thread

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by seta, Aug 2, 2009.

    If this is already a "sticky" somewhere, feel free to moderate - otherwise:

    Many authors have their own habits for things preceding or succeeding speech. For instance, I noticed that Timothy Zahn enjoys the phrase "snorted derisively" (or anything "derisively")

    I would like to create a thread discussing techniques, mechanisms at phrases specifically regarding speech.

    Feel free to add anything - or ask any questions such as "How would you describe the voice of [character/person] from [film/novel/story/reality]?"

    For instance, Admiral Ackbar (as well as all Calamari) are described as having "gravelly" voices.

    How would you describe Gollum's voice as portray by Andy Serkis?

    ~~~~

    Edit: Another good one is "grating" - I consider my voice to be "grating"; I had a friend describe me as "the white Morgan Freeman" with a creepy laugh to boot!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To atart with, I'll point out some terminology. A dialogue tag is a clause connected to dialogue fragment to indicate who is speaking. For example, in the sentence:
    the clause Nadirov said ominously is the dialogue tag. Dialogue tags are not mandatory. The context often makes it clear who is speaking without a need to explicitly tell the reader.

    A beat is an action by the speaker inserted adjacent to or between dialogue segments. For example, in:
    The sentence He looked directly at Chris is a beat. It serves to introduce a short pause between the dialogue fragments, and can convey mood or other key cues. In this case, the speaker is making it clear to Chris that he expects him to report first.

    In dialogue tags, usually you should keep the verb simple: said, asked, replied. Trying to vary the verb to avoid repetition is not a good idea, The common tah verbs virtually disappear to the reader, whereas the variety verbs stand out like a nerd on a football field. Also, go easy with the adverbs. An overuse of adverbs in dialogue tags was so common in a certain series of books for young readers that it is often called "Tom Swifting." It will label you an amateur to any publisher or editor, so use those adverbs very sparingly. I used one in my illustration of a dialogue tag, but only to emphasize that the entire clause is the dialogue tag. I do usse an adverb occasionally in a tag, but only if I feel it is really needed.
     
  3. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I personally try to avoid using adverbs with the ending of "ly" in any dialog tag, unless it is completely unavoidable to get across what I am trying to say.

    I generally use action, or said, asked, and occasionally replied.

    If it is obvious who is speaking, I will leave a few of the tags out all together, especially in longer conversations, or action sequences where I use action instead of said/asked.

    I try to make it as clear as possible how the characters might be saying the lines by what is being said. The actual content of the dialog is important to me, as we all naturally say certain things in certain ways.

    Take for instance:

    "Wow, that dress makes you look hot." He said, as he admired her body.

    "Yeah. Right," she replied with a snort.

    From the context and the sentence structure, I would hope someone would read her sarcasm in that statement due to her self consciousness.

    But some writers feel the need to over-clarify what they are trying to say. This often can make the reader feel like the writer assumes they're an idiot and can't figure it out.

    Like: "Yeah. Right," she said sarcastically. or her tone dripping with sarcasm.

    Either way, it's tell the reader what they already should have figured out. We have the ability to assimilate the information with what we already know, have experienced, or can imagine. Thus the writer doesn't need to TELL the reader again, when the reader has already read that dialog in whatever tone of voice they would place on it. The writer telling them after the fact that it was sarcastic might make them go back and read it again, which is not what we want the reader to do. We want them to keep moving forward. To be compelled to read the next sentence, not have to go back and re-read.

    In something I was writing yesterday, I found myself describing this young Marine's voice and demeanor as flat. Giving the impression he was just reciting what had been pounded in his head through his training. But then I used body language to contradict this. I also use a cadence in his dialog that when said, would feel like he was barking these answers to the question at the doctor.

    Kids voices tend to be higher pitched, sometimes whiny. I use those descriptions a lot for kids.

    Sometimes I say a voice sound rich, deep, throaty, raspy, high pitched, low pitched, and squeaky even.

    I find character's I want the reader to dislike, I give them voices and characteristics that are grating and annoying. Character's I want the reader to trust and associate with, I give voices that draw the reader in.

    I try to use a lot of body language in my writing. Sometimes I succeed, other times I forget.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if using this as an example of 'ok' writing, you should probably write it correctly, with comma after 'hot' instad of a period and no capital for 'he'...
     
  5. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I think you should definitely have a comma and no capital...
     
  6. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    That's one of those bad habits I've formed and is trying to break. :)
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Gollums voice, hmm. Like an old man with a high-pitched voice, a pitch, though, dulled after seventy years of smoking. A forced wheezed that, nonetheless, is easily understood.

    What about the Daleks in the new Dr Who? A screeching pitch ran through a synthesizer for a robotic effect.
     
  8. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Here's a particular one that I've had trouble with - people laughing.

    Brian chuckled to himself... gets old real quick. What are some alternatives?
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Most of the time you don't have to mention that people laughed. If you make the reader laugh, they will assume the characters did.
     
  10. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    'Old' isn't necessarily bad. If it works and ties in with how your character speaks, why not use it?
     
  11. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    "Wow, that dress makes you look hot." He said, as he admired her body.

    "Yeah. Right," she replied with a snort.


    Snorted works better for me as a reader. Replied with a snort is too long, tedious, and it hurts my eye.
     
  12. Melonman
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    Melonman New Member

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    This isn't necessarily true. unless the book, in some way, tells me they laughed I assume that no one found it funny. Unless of course someones proceeding dialogue recognizes the humor in a positive way.

    On another note. Where Bluebell would right...

    I would instead use a "Wow, that dress makes you look hot," he said, admiring her body.

    Eliminating the redundancy of he. which is something I look for in general. I can't stand writing the same descriptive word more than once, maybe twice, in a single page. With the odd exception.
     
  13. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Bluebell, I think what maia meant was that you should edit your original post so as not to confuse people. A lot of newbies don't know how to punctuate dialogue, and examples like that, posted as instruction, really don't help. .
    That's maybe a tad harsh, but I agree. . I'm not sure why it was written with so many words. Funny that even people who are very careful about this end up writing a lot of inefficient tags (myself included). Dialogue is tricky.
    Aside from the puctuation thing, I found the last bit altogether unneseccary, though it feels somehow natural to say something more here. Also, his wording carries the implication that she isn't normally good looking. . One of my past girlfriends would pick apart everything I said, so I learned to analyze the words before I spoke. A conversation might go like this:

    "Wow, that dress is hot," I said, admiring her body. (here the info fits better because it makes a minor clarification; I said the dress is hot, but I'm thinking she is. still, some would omit it for being obvious.)

    She snorted. "Yeah, the dress is hot."

    "Aww, come on." I walked over to her. "You know that's not what I meant," I sighed, setting my hands on her shoulders. "You're absolutely gorgeous, and you'll never convince me otherwise."
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, that is what i meant... thanks, kas!
     
  15. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Yes, but if it were just put

    "Yeah. Right," she snorted.

    It sounds like she snorted the words, exactly how does one snort words out of their mouth. The problem is they don't. She said the words, then after she said them, she made a dissenting snort. You can't make that sound through writing, it's just something we do, scoffing, snorting, clearing our throat, sneering, choking, coughing, sneezing for that matter...are all sounds that have to be described in some manner, however characters, as with normal people, rarely speak while doing any of these sounds. Thus, she wouldn't snort the words "yeah. right." she was say them, then scoff (which is more the word I was looking for.)

    Maia and Kas, while yes, I made a mistake that I didn't catch, cause I didn't reread my post, is it really necessary to tear apart an off the hip not so good example, which I never claimed as gold?

    So sorry my not so thought out example sentences to the newbies wasn't up to par for you two. I'll do better next time.
     
  16. Admilu
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    Admilu New Member

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    Hmm... I've noticed that alot of authors repeat little phrases through their books. I think in life when you get comfortable at using certain explanations it comes out in your writing which is why some authors like (using the author of this topics example) Timothy Zahn uses derisively often.
     
  17. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    You're thinking of it as a tag. It's not. It's what Cogito calls a beat. I wrote it as two sentences in my example. . and it doesn't matter where you put "she snorted" . . front or back, it's a standalone line.

    "Yeah. Right." She snorted.

    Nobody is trying to pick on you, Bluebell. Relax. Your made some good points, so we are expanding on them. . exploring the subject to learn and help others. . which is pretty much what this site is about, I think. No hard feelings?:)

    Peace.
     
  18. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    BlueBalls, read the example Kas provided for you. It's good example of what I was referring to.
     
  19. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Sorry Kas, I'm PMSing right now, and was in argumentative form last night after dealing with stupid landlords. Didn't mean to be so snotty. I'm not mad, no hard feelings, you guys are right, piss poor examples don't help anyone and I could have written better ones if I had taken a few extra minutes to think about it.

    Ha! Eyez, it's bluebell....like the flower, not like what men get after being aroused for a long time. :)

    Edit: I do know I have seen it somewhere, either in how to write fiction book, or a website, or someplace, that talks about using tag lines.

    To me, "she snorted." isn't so much a beat, as a tag line. To me a beat would be more like an action, but snorting could be considered both I guess. Maybe I'm just objecting to my usage of "snort." I don't like it. lol Maybe groaned, moaned, scoffed, any of those might sound better and less like a tag.

    She groaned, "Yeah. Right."

    Or maybe "Yeah. Right," she scoffed as she picked up her purse. (something actiony I think makes it less of a tag for me and makes it feel like less of a connector with what she just said.)

    That way the scoffing is connected to the action, rather than the verbal exchange.

    Tag lines are always a point of contention with me. I go between using them, or avoiding them like the plague. In school my professor was a total minimalist with tag lines. If you knew who was talking, take them out, he'd say, unless they show action that defines the character.

    Good writing is that thing you know when you see it, but it's hard to explain exactly what makes it good.
     
  20. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    His gaze trailed up her long legs. "Wow, hot dress."

    She snorted. "Yeah, right."

    I prefer to do it this way because what is implied is subtext. When I edit, I spend one pass looking for nothing but ways to add subtext.

    Oh, and I'm disappointed that no one took a shot at describing how Daleks sound.
     
  21. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Bluebell: No problem! And yeah, it can be both. I only meant that it looked like a beat the way you used it (defined as an action preceding or following speech). It's definitely possible to "snort" words. . weird as it sounds. . just expel air out your nose while speaking. I do it. . . and I know I've seen it used as a tag. (as in, snorted the words)

    Also agree on alternative word choices. . snorting is a bit crude and conjures an unfortunate image.:rolleyes:
    Me too.
    True, and that's why good writing is so hard to pull off.

    Architectus: You make a great point about subtext. I try to do the same. . but it's also easy to overdo. . too much and it can seem like a subtle kind of infodumping. Seems like nearly everything has that potential. Frustrating.:cool:

    As for "Dalek's sound" . . I've got about this much of a clue: -
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...while you may be able to 'snort' a single word, kas, there's no way anyone can possibly 'snort' a whole sentence!... it's simply not physically possible... and wouldn't be attempted, unless one is trying to dub the dialog of a mud-wallowing hog, for an animated flick...

    ...we've all seen all kinds of awful stuff in others' writing, but if you want to be a good writer, you'll only emulate the best, not the worst of what you 'see'...
     
  23. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Lol, maia. That last bit was good advice, as always.

    However, the two words in the example were punctuated as two sentences. And so, as a tag, it would be: "Yeah. Right," she snorted.

    Isn't that okay? Technically speaking. It's kind of ugly, and doesn't make a lot of sense (usually it's the "yeah" that people huff out), so I wouldn't write it,. . . but it seems technically fine, to me.

    Edit: You could just stick the tag in between:

    "Yeah," she snorted, "right."

    That works. And that's enough snorting for one thread, I think.:p
     

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