1. mollymorrson
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    mollymorrson New Member

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    Help with conversation flow.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by mollymorrson, Nov 22, 2012.

    Writing is coming along really nicely. However when i read over character conversations it feels like they are a bit broken up with mentioning names.

    For example..

    "Hello, how are you today" said Peter.
    "I'm fine thank you" Said Paul. "How are you?"
    "A little bit tired actually, but nothing a cup of coffee wouldnt fix" replied Peter.
    "Would you like me to make you one?" asked Paul. "The kettle has just boiled".
    "Oh yes please" said Peter

    etc etc.

    I'd like to find a way to cut down on the ammount of 'said Peter' and 'said Paul' s that clutter the conversation. Is there any way to do this without confusing the reader?

    Cheers in advance.
     
  2. jg22
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    jg22 Member

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    Break up your dialogue with actions and descriptions. Have Paul reach for the cups when he asks Peter if he wants one. Describe the way Peter sits down at the table. Describe the expressions on their faces as the conversation evolves.

    You also don't need to add a dialogue tag (said Peter/said Paul) every single time a character speaks; it will be abundantly clear to the reader who is speaking once all of the characters have been established in the conversation. The reader should be able to recognise the speaker based on both the content of the speech (what he/she is saying, and the way it is said) and based on the order of dialogue. If we know there are two people speaking in a conversation, one Peter, the other Paul, then we know automatically that if Pauls says 'Would you like a cup of coffee?' then it must be Peter who is replying, 'Yes', since there are only two people in the conversation.

    It may also be worth cutting out non-essential or inane dialogue, unless you are using it to create tension in a scene (that is, characters chatting mundanely to cover up an emotional conflict between them, or sexual tension, where in both examples the words matter very little, and the reader is concerned more with body language and action.) You might also consider non-verbal actions- that is, Paul makes Peter a cup of coffee after seeing Peter rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and not a word of dialogue is exchanged. This would in itself demonstrate a connection between the characters without having to spell it out loud or clutter your text with non-essential dialogue.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first, all of that is incorrectly done... should be:

    a much less boring, more readable and effective way to say all that:

    as you can see, no dialog tags are needed after the first two, since it's clear who's speaking...
     
  4. mollymorrson
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    mollymorrson New Member

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    It's a good thing i was going for word structure rather than gramatical correctness in the example! No wonder i had to retake English haha!

    Thank you both for the advice, i can cut out a lot of non words from what i have written so far and make the story flow much better.
     
  5. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Yeah, I had this same problem. Cutting unecessary tags is rough. I feel like I'm playing Jenga, pulling out tags, hoping the structure doesn't fall apart.

    As far as your example, you can also put in the tag at a natural pause.

    I'm still learning good flow for dialogue, but it is interesting!

    ~ J. J.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the best way to learn this and all other aspects of writing is to READ and see how the best writers do it...
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    And how the bad writers do it, so you know what to avoid :)

    (I listened to a podcast of a short story recently that used beats to the extent that it became very annoying. Some dialogue tags would have been a great relief!)
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah definitely too many dialogue tags. The main problem with your example though is that it's a deathly dull piece of dialogue - and Peter and Paul are very similar names when you have no face to put the names to, or knowledge of the character.

    So for an outsider like me reading just a snippet, I simply cannot remember which one's Paul and which one's Peter, meaning I have no idea who said what - but the even more major problem is that I simply do not care, actually.

    The writing itself, however, seems fine :) and mamma has already corrected the grammar.
     

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