1. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    Extended dialogue scenes

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mickaneso, Feb 22, 2013.

    I finished the second draft of my first short story recently. I handed it out to some friends and family and got pretty positive remarks. I showed it to my girlfriend, who reads a lot and has taken a short story class before. She's of the opinion that my dialogue goes on too long and that I need to break it up with some action. I have plenty of beats in there (I don't go eight sentences without a little bit of action) but I don't like the idea of arbitrarily putting in description between every ten lines of dialogue. I read through it again and counted the lines of dialogue. I start with a paragraph of description, then one of interior monologue, then I go 15 lines of dialogue (with 4 beats) before I go back to a paragraph of action. Then I go back to 10 lines of dialogue (with 2 or three beats) before I go to another action paragraph.

    This is the second time she's said this about a piece of my writing (once in a first chapter of a novel I wrote too). She said she loved both pieces, that it was just a piece of constructive criticism. I still find it frustrating because I feel writers like Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald write extended dialogue scenes with minimal action/description and it's an okay way to write. But I'm accepting to change my ways if I'm in the wrong. I just want more opinions on the matter in case I'm trying to change my style and hurt my writing by chopping up my dialogue with more description. She also says that I need to break up my description with dialogue. That I get into two different mindsets and I go off on three or four paragraphs of action and description before I go back to dialogue and I need to mix them up a little. I think that might be good advice but again I'm not sure.

    Another thing is that I've been reading a lot of Hemingway recently. As I'm an early writer I haven't really found my "voice" yet, so I'm still writing like a parody of whoever I'm reading. I used to write very poetic description (as most beginners do) but I tried to keep my description very stripped back and tried to do more interior monologue and description in line with my character. Just a little more insight into how I'm trying to write, in case this is a common problem.

    So what do you guys think? Do I need to change my ways or is she advising me on her personal taste. I'm not sure if I want to post my story here, just because some time in the future, a few years, when I'm a better writer I might want to try and tone it up and make it publishable.
     
  2. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    It's impossible for me to say without seeing/reading it ... it could just be her taste, or she could have a good point.

    Have you asked the other friends and family who read it about this particular point to see if they noticed it? (It's great when people say it's great - but to get useful feedback you may need to be more specific about what you're asking them). There are great stories that are mostly dialogue, others with little - it's down to the style and the writer whether a particular instance works.
     
  3. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    you can post a paragraph or so for review in the workshop if you want to get more constructive feedback, you can write for us something similar if you want to keep your story hidden.

    It all depends on your writing long dialogues can be boring sometimes if it has nothing to do with the plot but so can also pointless long descriptions, so a balance is needed to keep the reader want more of both and continue reading
     
  4. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    She is definitely advising you on her personal taste, because that's all anyone who ever reads your story can do. That doesn't mean you should ignore her opinion, though. If enough people think you have a problem, you probably have a problem, though that problem won't be 'you have 15 lines of dialogue'. Much like with advertising copy, a conversation between your characters can never be too long - it can just be too boring.

    Don't just break up the conversation for the sake of it. Try to work out why she's finding the conversation tough going, and fix that.
     
  5. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    Good advice guys thanks. I probably will post a little bit of it in the workshop to get more concrete feedback. I don't think it's that she necessarily finds it boring, I think she finds it too fast paced or too mechanical. I'm going to leave the story for ten days now without looking at it and start writing another few (first drafted) stories in the meantime. Maybe if I come back to it feeling more detached I'll get a better sense of what's right and wrong. My second draft was instantly after I wrote it, so I probably didn't leave it long enough yet.
     
  6. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Dialogue IS action.
    That is why the rule is that the only purpose for dialogue is:
    To pass information to the reader
    To reveal character
    And to, move the story forward.

    Treating dialogue as action automatically keeps it within the bounds of the story; which allows you to maintain the dialogue for page after page without the reader feeling disconnected from the story --because after all the story is about people in a situation (or crisis) and people talk to one another.
     
  7. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    Thats why i always say its best to leave some space between finishing the book(or chapter) and editing, as your memory is still too fresh from writing it and more often you will say "of course its good thats why i wrote it"
     

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