1. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    Style 'Chat room' format in a novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mashers, Jun 16, 2016.

    Hi everyone

    One of the characters in my novel is a hacker who will, ultimately, play a crucial role in the resolution of the plot. He requires a mentor character, and I feel it is more realistic for a hacker's mentor to be another hacker. I'm therefore considering placing all of their interaction, and thus dialogue, in an online context. This would mean that their dialogue would be formatted as though it were a chat room. For example:



    I'm really looking for some feedback on how this works stylistically. The other characters in the novel will be communicating verbally, so the chapters with Devrim and Arlo will be the only ones which are formatted like this. I feel it adds some variety to the book, but I want to check to make sure it's not annoying for the reader. I've written Devlin's dialogue in highly contracted and agrammatical language, and Arlo's in more precise language with proper capitalisation and punctuation, which I intend to reflect something about their personalities.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think it can work fine. Take a look at the novel TTYL, by Lauren Myracle. The whole thing is in texting format, and that book was quite successful. If your book is targeted to a younger audience - maybe people in their mid-30s or below - I don't think the readers will have a problem with the style.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Old farts like me may be prone to kvetching. ;)
     
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  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Under-30 here and I wouldn't be able to read a book with a lot (as in, more than MINISCULE) txt spk. I could stomach a few lines of "how r u" from a character that I'm meant to laugh at, but that's about it.

    The actual format is fine for me.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, @Wreybies, I read parts of TTYL when my daughter was into it and it took some getting used to. Here's the actual first page of the book (the whole thing follows this format, I believe), from the Amazon free sample (my daughter and her friends ate this book up, but she was eleven):

    TTYL_Sample.JPG
     
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Oh good god. Kill it with fire.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. But on the other hand it was popular at the time. Enough so that they released the 10th Anniversary Edition a couple years back. Think about that!
     
  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Why are you trying to hurt me, Steerpike? What have I done to you?

    [​IMG]
     
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry @Tenderiser :)

    I was just rather astounded myself when I went to grab a shot of the free sample that there was a "10th Anniversary Edition." I can see having an anniversary edition for Nabokov, or Conrad, or Joyce, or heck even the Potter books given how popular they were. But for this book? I had to laugh.
     
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry for the derail @mashers. The point is, if Lauren Myracle (fake name I presume) can write TTYL and sell tons of copies and get a 10th Anniversary Edition, then I don't think you have to worry about the format you're suggesting, in and of itself.
     
  11. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    Thanks for the responses everyone. I realise the 'txt spk' may annoy some (it annoys me too but felt it apt). If the characters communicated through this medium but using full sentences and proper grammar/punctuation, would it still be annoying? I don't want to restrict myself to a younger audience - this is intended as a mature sci-fi novel with a serious message.
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    LOL!!

    Reminds me of the old saying that just because you can do something doesn't necessarily mean you should.

    Two thoughts, here. The first is that this is really a new version of an old style, sometimes referred to as "epistolary", since the early version of it were letters from one character to another. My first experience with this was Taylor Caldwell's Dialogues With the Devil, which began with a letter from Satan to God, which was answered by Michael the Archangel, etc. When I first read it, I was 19 and thought it was cool. Good vs. evil from the lead characters of each. When I went back and re-read it in my 40s, the format quickly became tiresome - a play with no setting, not even real dialogue, but simply a set of competing soliloquies.

    Epistolary writing can now be composed of e-mails, chat logs (as with the OP), even court transcripts. Advances in graphic publishing allow us to include them in text in their own formats. My own view is that these work best as accents, rather than the main melody. Even as accents, I'd use it sparingly. Garth Risk Hallberg's City On Fire has five huge inserts throughout, graphically produced, of facsimiles of items such as a handwritten journal and a crudely composed fanzine. They are tedious distractions that add nothing to the story.
     
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think that would be fine. I've seen SF novels that do that. I think Nick Sagan did it in his Edenborn books, if I'm remembering correctly.
     
  14. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    That'd be fine for me. I have no problems with the format, purely the text speak. :)
     
  15. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I don't think I'd find it any more annoying than when people write out dialogue in some made up dialect speak. (Which I find extremely annoying.) If you kept the text abbreviations simple, and only used the most common ones, I don't think there would be a problem with it. If there are pages of any sort of language I need to decipher I skip the book.
     
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  16. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    Thank you all very much for the really helpful responses! It's been great to hear different opinions on this style of writing. I've decided to include the formatting for the dialogue, but tone down the text speak a lot, taking the advice of including only obvious or commonly used abbreviations. Also, I have no intention of including swathes of uninterrupted dialogue formatted this way. This would be tedious to read, as there is no possibility of tags, body language, character movement or other context enriching description. I will instead break from the chat dialogue as frequently as I would for spoken dialogue and reference the characters' thoughts about what is happening, or describe their individual body language (such as in the example in the OP of Devrim resting his head back on the chair). The POV character could also have spoken dialogue in response to the other character's written messages, such as making an exclamation or other response verbally (to himself) before typing his response to the other character.

    I hope that these mechanisms will break up the dialogue sufficiently that it will be as easy to read as spoken dialogue, and my hope is that formatting the dialogue for these characters differently will add an extra dimension to the novel.

    Thanks again everyone :)
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Good luck with it.
     

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