1. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England

    Handling dialogue in diary/journal style fiction

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Jul 22, 2016.

    Inspired by my decision to try and read Cormac McCarthy's The Road again (I gave up last time), I've been thinking about starting a story about the apocalypse / dying earth / last man on earth.

    My first instinct (again inspired by McCarthy's multiple line breaks) was to write it in the diary / journal style, until I asked myself how I would handle dialogue.

    What I mean by this, is that it's not usual - or even possible unless you record them - to transcribe conversations you may have had during your day, when making a diary entry. You may document the things you discussed, but you wouldn't transcribe them word for word.

    So I ask, as a reader, would you simply overlook passages of dialogue without questioning their inclusion in a diary style story, or would you expect and want it to be handled differently?
     
  2. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,065
    Likes Received:
    5,267
    Location:
    California, US
    I don't think it matters too much that people wouldn't remember it word for word. I've read epistolary novels, where the author is basically recorded in a journal or in letters, and the dialogue is presented normally. You could do it in summary form, with the writer simply stating what has been said, but unless you're heavily invested in that style and can pull it off, you'll probably end up with a less engaging work. Better off dramatizing it.

    Someone in my critique group told an author writing a memoir not to use dialogue for the reasons you stated (they can't remember the conversation verbatim), and I disagreed for the same reasons I've stated above.
     
  3. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    It's not so much the 'remembering it word for word' that makes me ask, it's the fact that if you were to find a genuine diary or journal, you wouldn't expect to see any dialogue, because it's not something you do in diary writing.

    But I take your answer that an exception would be made by most, for the sake of artistic license.

    I suppose if I'm honest, I was just looking for an excuse to use lots of line breaks (or epistolary as you call it) but of course I don't need an excuse, do I?
     
  4. tropicanahana
    Offline

    tropicanahana Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2008
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    8
    Diary writing, as a form of personal writing, is unique to each individual. You may want to look at other diary style novels to take a look at how different writers display conversation in diary writing. A few that come to my mind are "The Little House on Mango Street", "Sex and the City", "Angus, Thomgs, and Full-frontal Snogging"... They all have different styles of written dialogue/conversation.

    I personally do and have always included dialogue in my life's diaries, and I am sure I am not the only person to do so. Conversations with other people are usually the high points of my day, so of course I include the most memorable parts of conversation.
     
    OurJud likes this.
  5. Sack-a-Doo!
    Offline

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,231
    Likes Received:
    1,511
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    Another thing I have to ask: Who is he leaving this record for? If he's the last person on Earth, posterity will only be realized by evolved chimps or aliens. :)

    Not that I'm trying to discourage you; this is just how my mind works.
     
  6. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    I'd never really thought of that :)

    Anyway, it was a brief idea that I quickly dismissed. I'm no longer writing in diary style.
     
    Sack-a-Doo! likes this.
  7. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Your question is the very reason I started writing my most recent pieces in an anecdottal, recollective kind of way. I thought of trying a variant of that style myself and just couldn't quite get my head around it. o_O I'm not too preturbed about my having failed though... it forced me to write in a way that comes more naturally to me. Maybe when I have a million more words, and a bit more experience behind me, I'll give it another shot. :D
     
    OurJud likes this.
  8. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    I don't think I know any other way. The only way I can make sense of tense and voice, is to imagine I'm simply recounting the events to someone, face to face.

    Sometimes, if I'm struggling with the rhythm or flow of a sentence, I turn to an empty chair and recount that part of the story to an imaginary listener.
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  9. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Yep...that's how I do it. Storytelling used to be a big thing in my neck of the woods but, once the telly was invented, younger folks became less interested, and the only traditional storytellers were very, very old. You would still get the occasional one, usually a related family member, but they tend to keep to Ceili's and special occasions now, rather than ply their trade as a form of regular entertainment, as it once was. Such a pity.
     
    OurJud likes this.
  10. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    That's not to suggest I write in an old fashioned story-telling style. I prefer contemporary fiction - something with balls and attitude - and like to think my stuff comes across in a similar tone. Not that I have any confidence it does :)

    My biggest influence for my current novel is HST's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
     

Share This Page