1. Cady36
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    Cady36 Member

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    He, he, and she, and point of view.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Cady36, Jan 3, 2009.

    Hi to all,

    I hope you guys can help. Since this is a wayyyy newbie question, if someone could just point me to a good article or tutorial, I'd be extremely grateful.

    I have a bit of writing experience, but none recently, and virtually none involving dialog. I'm a programmer and graphic designer, and have written stuff for college level computer graphic text books, marketing copy, "Daily Journal of Commerce" -type corporate articles, etc., but nothing but ad and website copy in the past seven or eight years.

    Years ago - maybe 20 years ago? Yikes! - I had a short story published, and started work on a novel that I never finished. The short story had, I think, two lines of dialog in it (it was a short short).

    Recently, I had an idea for a story, and so I'm...playing, I guess. I finally sat down at the keyboard tonight, and have been having one of those lucky nights where the words just fly off your fingertips. (Relatively speaking, that is - I've written about 500 words I actually like in about 2 hours. That's a lot better than I do in technical manuals and corporate articles - lol.)

    I sort of started in the middle of this story, because there's a particular conversation going on that is so vivid to me I'm having dreams about it...but it's all dialog, and I'm really having problems with he said/he thought/he did. The point of view in this story will change many times, and often quickly, though hopefully always clearly. I really need to get this down.

    This conversation is between two men and a woman. I won't bore you with my actual dialog, but made up a few lines of text illustrate the point.

    In this example, the current point of view is "David's". I'm getting stuck on the "he said/he did", mainly, when can I use "He leaned back in his chair" and when must I use "David leaned back in his chair"?

    David, David, David. I'm sick of David by three sentences, and this passage will have a zillion of them. I think that the third one could safely be "him" instead of David, or the David in the second paragraph could be "he" (but only if David is left in the third paragraph?)...

    I dunno. I'm lost. I have about 50 lines of Davids to go through, or Michaels, actually, in my case. Any good blog/article/tutorial out there anyone can think of?

    Thanks,

    Cady
     
  2. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I doubt this is the answer you're looking for, but I don't think there are any artcles or tutorials that would be very helpful. With writing, the best teacher is reading and listening. Read plays. Read books that have lots of dialogue in them. Listen to conversations to get an idea of speach patterns and the way they sound in real life as opposed to how they need to be in a story to serve the purposes of the story and not be boring.

    It's all practice. In my opinion, dialogue is one of the hardest things to get right because it has to sound completely genuine or you can ruin the whole story for some (ie ME), whereas the rest of your narative can be anything as long as it serves the story and is not boring.
     
  3. Sophronia
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    Sophronia Member

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    When you have two males in a scene like this, it's hard to get across who is who without using the names. However, if you're getting tired of just using their names, you can use any alternate titles they may have to make it a little more interesting.

    For example, I don't know David's profession, but if he were a lawyer or a friend to these people, you could put:

    I highlighted my examples in the blue. Whether using alternate titles distracts from the dialogue's relevance or not, I can't really say. Also, on a side note, when writing a paragraph about the character that doesn't involve the other characters, I don't think you would really need to use his name more than once.

    Hope I helped.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If names in tags (David said, Jodie said) become too repetitive, and too many pronouns make it hard to keep track of, you can also use beats to not only clarify who is speaking, but also the vary the pace. A beat is a small action that takes place between dialogue fragments. Jodie turned to David, eyebrows raised is a beat. In this case, you could have left David out of the beat, either by substituting him, or even eliminating the whole phrase: Jodie turned and cocked an eyebrow. The reader can make the natural assumption that her arched eyebrow was for his benefit, and therefore she is facing him.

    Another approach is to fix the scene to one character's point of view. Once the reader is firmly perched on that character's shoulder, pronouns will work more easily for the other characters, or especially a single other character, in the scene.

    I agree with Rei about reading other writers' work to learn. But at the same time, look critically ate each piece of dialogue. Befroe imitating that author's approach, ask yourself, "Did I find it easy to follow this conversation? Did I ever have to backtrack to figure out who said what?"

    In my experience, not every author does a good job with dialogue, even when the rest of the writing is excellent. So before you emulate the style, make sure it's an effective one.
     
  5. Cady36
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    Cady36 Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I do read quite a bit. (I'm 48 and I read five or six books per week - have for years.) And I definitely notice when a conversation is difficult to follow. Drives me crazy, which is one of the reasons I'm so concerned about it.

    I make lots of use of beats (thanks for the nomenclature) because a long string of he said/she said and variations thereof is another thing that drives me nuts when reading :).

    In my actual dialog, the two guys are sort of brothers, so as long as it's one brother talking to and referring to the other brother, I can also substitute "his brother" in some of the beats.

    I love the clarity and brevity of "Jodie turned and cocked an eyebrow". No matter what I'm writing, I always have to go back and rip out those "extra words", usually several times.

    I kicked out about 2500 raw words last night, most of it dialog. The dialog itself I'm pretty happy with and it reads pretty naturally, it's just the connection stuff that's been a problem.

    And please excuse my trash sample text...it was after midnight here when I posted, and I just typed up a few paragraphs of garbage between 2 guys and a girl. After I posted I actually read what I'd typed, I noticed the turned and turned and the general suckiness of the text, but I figured it was good enough for some advice on how to get rid of the David, David, David.

    And now here it is almost noon and I still haven't slept. God only knows what I'll think of *this* post after a nap.

    Thanks again for the information - it was all really helpful!

    Cady
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Another way is if any of the character's are doing anything unique in the scene you wouldn't need to use the persons name in the beat if you have already established the action he/she is doing.

    For example: David is making coffee. Previously you established that he put the ground coffee in the machine.

    David poured coffee grounds into the machine. He was silent but seething. For the third time tonight, he wished he were an only child.

    Jodie raised her eyebrows. “Well?” She tried not to laugh.

    Finally, he managed an insincere and slightly strangled chuckle. He slapped the side of the coffee machine trying to get it to turn on and turned to Mark. “Where did you hear such a crazy, idiotic and . . . um . . . untrue thing?”

    Mark grinned. “From your ex-wife?” He winked at Jodie.

    “Haha, very funny,” he said, while pushing the brew button.

    “So, what are we doing tonight?”

    He finally got the machine to turn on and answered her. “Dancing.”

    Not the best example, but I think you get the idea. It can work well.

    Another way of course is using voice. Perhaps a character says something unique, like Dude. If he is the only person who talks like that, once his voice is established you can just say he. Suppose Jodie is the only one who likes to start of sentences of with so.

    Also little stupid actions like messing with the coffee machine can add more to the scene.
     
  7. Cady36
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    Cady36 Member

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    Thanks, Architectus, that instantly clarified a couple of long pieces of dialog for me!

    Cady
     
  8. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Easy fix:

    David was silent, but seething. For the third time this night, he wished he were an only child.

    Jodie turned to him, eyebrows raised. "Well?" She tried not to laugh.

    Finally, he managed an insincere and slightly strangled chuckle and turned to Mark. "Where did you hear such a crazy, idiotic and. . . um. . .untrue thing?"

    Mark's grin was wicked. "From your ex-wife?" He winked at Jodie.





    The trick is, if Jodie refers to David, then it is a girl talking to a boy, therefore; the word 'he' will not be ambiguous.

    If Mark talks to David, it is a bit more tricky, but not terribly so:

    When David talks, you write 'David said--' and then you can write 'he' directly afterward.
    Once you have Mark do something; however, you must then state their names all over again.


    Sorry if it sounds like I'm being patronizing. You probably know this better than I.


    Oh, and this advice works well in correlation with the advice given by the others in the thread.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    atari's 'fix' was well done... couldn't have done better myself... bravo!
     
  10. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    I also have this issue quite frequently. I find myself constantly going back and erasing my "David's" to replace them with pronouns and vice-versa.

    Hope these other Posts helped, cuz I certainly can't! ;)
     
  11. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    You know how when someone you care about insults you with more heat in his voice than you would expect, and you feel a dagger pierce your chest? Your eyes widen and you just feel awful for a few moments?

    Well, when you complimented me, I felt that way, only in reverse.

    As much as hate it, I care a lot about what you think, because you are a long-time member and ostensibly well-versed in all things writing.

    Thank you.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry to hear you hate caring about what i think [ ;-) ]... but i'm glad my assessment of your example gave you a thrill... or whatever it was you were trying to describe 'in reverse'...

    you're welcome...
     

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