1. biomajorette
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    biomajorette New Member

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    Dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by biomajorette, Mar 25, 2010.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make dialogue flow better in prose writing? One of my favorite ways of developing characters and plots is to use dialogue, but it always turns into "he said, she said, he said, she said," and becomes very dry and lifeless.

    Any help??:confused:
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Read novels that have good dialogue, and pay attention to how they manage it.

    Dialogue is practically a writing art all by itself.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     
  4. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    Only use as many "he said, she said" as necessary to keep track of who is talking. You can even avoid a lot of that by weaving action into the dialogue.

    If your characters have a distinctive voice, it's easy to know who is talking without constant reminders.
     
  5. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I'm ok with the "he said," "she said" type stuff as long as it doesn't look like this.

    "OMG," he said.
    "I know," she said.
    "I like that dog," he said.
    "ME TOO!" she said.

    (and on and on)

    Most of the time, "he/she said" become invisible and your eye doesn't notice them if they are done well.

    The use of action is also something to consider.

    "OMG," he said.
    "I know." She nodded and pointed across the street.
    "I like that dog," he said, grabbing her hand and leading her across the road.
    "ME TOO!"

    Setting "tags" aside, the best move I made as a writer was to take a playwriting class. You have to rely on dialogue alone (with some stage instruction/gesture), but for the most part, your dialogue must convey enough w/o the flowery prose to sew it all together. :)
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    more good advice... but...

    ...be careful about what you tack onto a dialog tag, since he can't be saying only 4 short words the whole time he's 'grabbing her hand and leading her across the road' can he?!
     
  7. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another thing to consider is that you don't necessarily need any kind of tag if your writing is tight enough and clear enough. If you only have two people in a room, once you identify the characters, in order of speaking, you can usually get away with just the dialog without the tags.

    Not one "he said" or "she said" in the whole passage but I think it's pretty clear who's saying what. (Not that this is necessarily the pinnacle of a tight, clear passage but I think it does get the point across.)
     
  8. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    theword, yeah, I agree. You can get away with no tags if you make it clear. Though, when you're reading big chunks of dialogue, I find it nice (as a reader) to have markers here and there, just in case. Could just be me, though.
     
  9. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Absolutely! But, as you pointed out, the tags are there just to clarify. So, for the most part, they are not really needed but there are times, as when a third person is added into the mix or when a conversation has gone on for a page or more with no action to allow you clarify who is speaking ... then, yes, you do need an occasional pointer to remind the reader who is speaking. But, as a general rule, you should not need too many of them and, when you do, they will be incidental to the story and fade into the background.

    So, no, it's not just you.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have seen many published novels in which the author didn't leave enough tags, so the reader ends up having to go back and count to be sure who is saying what.

    Keep that in mind when you proofread your dialogue. As the author, you know who said what, but your reader might get lost in the back and forth.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen to that!

    while a little can be made to go a long way, with tags, too little can get you lost...
     
  12. kinetica
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    kinetica Member

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    What I do, and you might find strange, is pay attention to the way people converse with each other in life. Also, like Cogito already said: pay attention to other media. When I read or watch a movie, I always find myself studying the dialogue the next times I go back to them.
     
  13. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I agree with this completely.

    One exercise I've done in the past is to eavesdrop on a conversation somewhere. Write it down as best you can word-for-word. It may give you some insight, but it will also show you that fiction (and movies/television dialogue) is not 100% accurate to real-life. If it was, we'd be sitting through a movie with dozens of "you knows" and "likes" and "uhhhhs."

    It gives you great ideas about gestures, though. Go watch some plays as well, or (even better) take an acting class. I learned a hell of a lot about gestures in writing after taking an acting class for fun. (model drawing is also good for description).
     
  14. afinemess
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    afinemess Active Member

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    Read "A Farewell to Arms". It will give you a great look at excellent dialouge that will confuse the hell out of you as to who is talking. I think I'm great at dialouge, I just write what feels natural, and if when rereading it, I feel like I left out to many tags or what not, then I add them in. It's trial and error really, and reading some good books with dialouge will help you. Good luck!
     

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