1. Flipdarkfuture
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    Flipdarkfuture Member

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    Balance of environmental and physical description during dialogue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Flipdarkfuture, Jan 25, 2013.

    Recently, I've been wondering if my writing has become imbalanced. Particularly concerning when it comes to describing a conversation between characters. I think I've been overdescribing the physical movements and leaving the dialogue itself rather light in consequence.

    Here is a example from my current story.

    "Your key, sir?" He shook his head in amusement at the way she said that, knowing full well how many times he asked her not to.

    He grinned as he tried a different tactic this time, one that would be completely different from the verbal flailing about she tended to bring out of him. Which was odd considering he usually had his thoughts collected most of the time. He leaned forward over the reception desk, propping up a hand under his chin as he nodded slowly, flipping over his hand resting on the surface and presenting his waiting palm. "If you would, ma'am."

    I'm just wondering if I'm overdoing it on the physical and environmental descriptions while a conversation is taking place, and would like some help in rectifying any issues.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My concern isn't the physical and environmental description, but the explaining. I prefer to have no explanation in a conversation, instead allowing the words and actions to give the reader what he needs to interpret. In your example, I've highlighted the parts that I would consider explanation in blue:

    "Your key, sir?" He shook his head in amusement at the way she said that, knowing full well how many times he asked her not to.

    He grinned as he tried a different tactic this time, one that would be completely different from the verbal flailing about she tended to bring out of him. Which was odd considering he usually had his thoughts collected most of the time. He leaned forward over the reception desk, propping up a hand under his chin as he nodded slowly, flipping over his hand resting on the surface and presenting his waiting palm. "If you would, ma'am."

    That's roughly half explanation, when I would suggest none at all.
     
  3. John Eff
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    John Eff Member

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    It's very difficult to tell from such a short passage which has no context regarding what has gone before and what comes after.

    There are times when such description helps in painting the picture you wish to convey but, generally speaking, frequently describing physical actions and reactions is not necessary and can be distracting. Personally, I only put these in to dialogue if absolutely necessary.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    does that answer your question? ;)

    this is what i call 'bi/bo' writing... as in 'breathe in/breathe out'... such micromanaging is the 'ambien' of writing...
     
  5. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    Just by the short sample you gave us, I can tell you you are overexplaining the actions. Action sequences work welll when it's not explained, but rather deduced or inferred. Breaking up the sentences into little digestable pieces is also a plus. For example:

    "Your key, sir?" She said for the twentieth time.

    He shook his head in amusement.

    "Yes?"

    "Are you forgetting something?" She asked, dangling the key out. She held a reception phone on the other hand. He leaned over the desk, grinning. He propped a hand under his chin and nodded slowly, extending an open palm. "If you would, ma'am."
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you make a good point about breaking it up, but those 'she's need to be in lower case, since they're part of the dialog tags, not separate sentences... and the last sentence should be separated, since it's a different person speaking...
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd cut the explanation even more, to:

    He shook his head with a smile.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how can a smile shake your head?... doesn't your neck do that? ;)
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Now there, I was being good, not jumping on such a tempting straight line. Although I was thinking more in terms of a smile being a handle (particularly if it's a wooden smile)...
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    All, right, all right: "He shook his head and smiled."
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, cf... just couldn't resist playing with such a fun gaffe...

    love and conciliatory hugs, m
     

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