1. Flipdarkfuture
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    Flipdarkfuture Member

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    Is it a good idea to sometimes separate dialogue depending on topic?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Flipdarkfuture, Aug 2, 2013.

    Lately I've been writing a few stories where one character has been the one talking for the bulk of the scene, and I kind of would like a opinion on whether separating a character's dialogue by topic or theme into consecutive paragraphs is a good way to go. Not all the time, just occasionally when the scene demands it.

    Here's a example of what I mean.

    "You okay?" She stopped in her tracks, turning around with worried haste to her friend.

    She stopped a moment, wondering if she should bring it up here of all places, only to steel herself with a sharp breath and approach her friend with purpose. "Look, we need to get this behind us."

    This is what I'm trying to go for. Although I suppose it would depend on how much needs to be said and on how much time passes between each segment of dialogue.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In terms of the treatment of dialogue, this looks fine to me. The description of what she is doing and why strikes me as a bit much, a little too much spoon-feeding the reader, but that might be just because it's a snippet or an example of what you have in mind.

    You don't really need much narrative to break up dialogue, and this is something I do a lot in my own writing. In one of my projects, I have a scene in which two people who haven't seen each other in many years and who parted badly are having dinner. I broke up the dialogue with little snippets - the waiter bringing each course, each character's minor discomforts, side comments by either to break tension (not a lot of this, but it is one place where I made an exception to my usual practice of eliminating incidental conversation from dialogue). In other cases, I will sometimes insert a single sentence of some incidental occurrence to break up dialogue and then insert a little narrative. I, personally, find long passages of nothing but dialogue to be tedious.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the best way to learn how to write/structure dialog well is to see how the best writers do it... keep a good number of well-respected authors' works on your bookshelf, to consult when questions like this arise...
     
  4. Steve Day
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    Steve Day Senior Member

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    Yes, indeed. Listen to your ma.
    I have a dog eared and much margin-filled book of an author that I admire, and go to when stumped by questions like Flipdarkfutures.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i keep several by top quality novelists handy, with pages dog-eared where i've marked passages to copy out as examples for my mentees and tutoring clients who're having trouble with dialog, scene-setting, descriptions of people, places or things... i use excerpts for tutee assignments, as well...
     
  6. Flipdarkfuture
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    Flipdarkfuture Member

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    Yes, I've noticed that I've tended to fault towards describing almost every movement made while someone is talking. It probably counts as padding, but to me I find it helps move conversation along. I guess I just need to learn how to strike a better balance between dialogue and physical description.
     
  7. Flipdarkfuture
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    Flipdarkfuture Member

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    Yes, I've noticed that I've tended to fault towards describing almost every movement made while someone is talking. It probably counts as padding, but to me I find it helps move conversation along. I guess I just need to learn how to strike a better balance between dialogue and physical description.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I find that a good rule of thumb is to only use those kinds of descriptions if they serve a particular purpose, and even then to use them very sparingly. In my example above, I was highlighting the halting nature of the conversation and the intense discomfort of both characters. At the same time, the conversation itself was an extremely condensed version of what might actually have transpired.

    An agent who looked at my first attempt at a novel pointed out that my writing at that time was much too descriptive and tended to tell the reader every little detail (I don't mean physical descriptions, I mean spoon-feeding the reader every nuance and leaving nothing to the reader's imagination), She described such writing as "immature", a term at which I initially took offense (since I was in my early forties at the time) but which, in purely writing terms, was accurate. So, I echo [MENTION=373]mammamaia[/MENTION]'s excellent advice - read widely and see the different ways in which great writers present dialogue.
     

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