1. Asuran
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    Asuran Member

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    Dialogue Dilemma

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Asuran, Jul 17, 2008.

    I have heard of way that you can use more than one person's dialogue in a paragraph. This is not the conventional thinking however I decided to search it on Google.com. But most of the answers have pointed me in the direction I am trying to avoid. They say that you can only place one speaker's dialogue in a paragraph. Now I am not trying to dismiss these as erroneous immediately, but trust the source that gave me the aforementioned information (and the sources also say that it is important to use said-bookisms in any instance to make your writing better).

    I guess my question is simply: Is it correct to place more than one speaker's dialogue in a paragraph and, if so, what circumstance is this acceptable in?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The only conditions I would consider doing so would be the general babble of a crowd. I would be doing so to emphasize the confusion, the inability to pick out one voice and follow its meaning.

    The question I would ask you is, "Why do you wish to find an exception to the conventional wisdom?"

    It should be the other way around, in my opinion. You should follow the conventional wisdom until you encounter a situation that the conventional wisdom falls short for you. If you find you need to create the confusion that this separation rule attempts to avoid, that's when you should think of breaking it. Seeking reasons to break it is looking for a problem to fit a patch.
     
  3. Asuran
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    Asuran Member

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    Thank you. I suppose you're right that I should have waited until I needed it, but I'm just a very curious child.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Curiosity is a good thing. Perhaps a better way to approach the question is to ask why dialogue is separated in that manner. Understanding the reason is what points to the circumstances under which you might consider breaking with tradition.
     
  5. Asuran
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    Asuran Member

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    I understand the reason. It is because they would all be of the same topic. Correct? That is what makes a paragraph a paragraph.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    More than that. A conversation can be all the same topic. The simplest reason is that dialogue is hard enough to keep track of who is saying what, that the separation into paragraphs is a badly needed visual cue that there may be a change of speaker.

    But also, a dialogue is not just words, it's words driven by a point of view. When you switch speakers, you're shifting the viewpoint or focus, so it belongs in a new paragraph for that reason.

    Finally, in a good dialogue, there is a tension between speakers. Each is trying to convey something to the other, from a different point of interest. Putting in dialogue of small talk is not the best use of the art. If you are using dialogue strategically, there is good reason to start a new paragraph for each stroke of the combat. Not that dialogue is necessarily adversarial, but there is typically some sort of negotiation taking place. The very fact that you find yourself asking, "Wait - who is saying that?" and that it makes a difference to you, points out that how you read each fragment depends heavily on who is saying it and what his interests are.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry cog, but even if it's the babble of a crowd, it would still make no sense to do that... placing all the lines of 'babble' in a series, each one properly indented below the other is all that's needed to show the 'confusion' etal....

    asuran...
    as for the reasons why it's necessary to separate each character's dialog, cog has laid them out quite well... the bottom line is that most rules like this one exist to make the writing easily understandable to the reader, which is what should be a writer's first priority...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Maia, I was only saying I wouldn't even consider it for anything less. :)
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    but what i was saying is that you shouldn't even consider it for that, as it wouldn't make sense...
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    <bowing> I hear, and I have no doubt you're right - as usual :)
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    hey, we're both so perfect, we know we're not, right!?
     
  12. Siegfried
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    Hmm, I have it if it's a convo not heard properly. Like in my story Antio hears a convo, but not proper. It's like you hear a few words from different person.

    I believe if it's not heard clearly then you can have it one line, with ellipses spacing out.

    Maybe not true, but I see ya can do that.
     

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