1. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    Lack of dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Scarecrow28, Sep 27, 2008.

    As I work on my first few chapters of my novel, I noticing the lack of dialogue. My MC is alone for the majority of the novel and these first chapters have covered him almost exclusively and the only dialogue have been sarcastic coments to himself and the militaristic and rigid orders of soldiers. Lateron, once the MC and other characters begin to interact, there will be more, but for now I've got virtually no real dialogue. Is this alright or should I try to insert some more, if possible!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If a part of the story has no need of dialogue, don't hammer some in anyway.
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Is the story damaged by the lack of dialogue? Would more dialogue improve it? If not, then why change it? You're the writer, so if that's the way you write it, thats the way it should be. There's no rule that says a story has to be all dialogue.
     
  4. TigerFire
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    TigerFire New Member

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    Sounds to me like you do have some dialogue. There is either inner dialogue or outer dialogue. The inner is the character's thoughts. If your MC is alone, then he has no other person to talk to except himself. Why force dialogue? Who else is he going to start talking to? A tree? A wall? If your character talks to trees and walls, the that's fine, but if he's a normal character and doesn't see the ghost of Elivis in the walls or something, then thats fine too. Dialogue isn't a requirement to write a story.
     
  5. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the response. I snuck in a few sarcastic inner dialogue comments when I was looking over chapters 1-3, but didn't add any unnecessary dialogue. The character is meant to be fairly solitary in nature, which means that I actually have an excuse of sorts why he doesn't speak frequently.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just remember that the purpose of dialogue is not to show that the character talks. We can assume a character defecates, but we don't need to know the details.

    Dialogue is used to expose character, or to show tensions with other characters, or for exposition, etc. Dialogue for the sake of dialogue is as ill-advised as description to fill space. Sometimes the lack of dialogue can speak louder still. Consider the usually friendly person who walks past his coworkers without a word or a glance - you immediately know something is up.

    Like a trip to the restroom, you don't need to give details of every conversation. It's perfectly fine to say two characters chatted for a few minutes before moving on, without giving details of the conversation. If the dialogue content serves noi purpose, leave it out.
     
  7. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    Dialogue is probably my favorite part of any book. One of the things that really frustrates me when I'm reading is bad or sparse dialogue. That being said, if it doesn't belong there and you're worried it won't seem natural, I wouldn't work it in. I'd rather go a space without any conversation than see conversation that has no strong reason for being there.
     
  8. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    I agree with what everyone else has said. Don't force it.
     
  9. Anthony James Barnett
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    Anthony James Barnett Contributing Member

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    It shouldn't be there just for the sake of it. However, I do find dialogue can move a story forward much faster. It can give pace. It also 'tells, not shows' -- AND it gives 'white-space'. The page is broken up and is easier on the eye than a solid block of text.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Great dialogue shows far more in subtext than it tells in text.
     
  11. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    I suck at writing dialogue. :(

    It always seems too forced (plus my sense of humour doesn't match up to most people's :confused: ). So I try and keep it to a minimum. Any advice?

    As for the above, I think if your MC's all by their onsies there's no reason to be adding dialogue that you didn't intend to be there initially just because. Sounds like it's going just as planned :p
     
  12. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    Yeah, no point stressing about it. As was said, dialogue works to move a story forward, as well as revealing character. Action and inner reaction serves the same purpose. If your mc's inner and external journeys are pared down to the bare essentials, where everything is specific to what is happening, nothing is wasted, or left standing. As a result, the reader finds it easier to remain within that imaginative state where disbelief disappears. Be specific and you shouldn't go far wrong.
     
  13. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    Listen to what people say. Dialogue works best when it written in simple, straight-forward manner like in message boards or during instant messaging. For example:

    "Man, I suck at writing dialogue. You know what I should do?" Little Miss Edi said, floundering. "It always seems forced and not a single bit realistic. Any suggestions? Hello?"

    A voice piped up in the background. "Listen to what people say."
     
  14. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    "But I can't."

    "Why not?"

    "Because it's so hard."

    "Have you ever tried writing dialogue before. Do you know how easy it is, once you get the hang of it?"

    "God, will you shut up? I wanted some advice not a sermon."

    "WHAT? You're the one who asked how to write dialogue, so excuse me Ms. Know-it-all. Why are you here if you're not willing to learn?!"

    "Who said anything about learning?"
     
  15. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    "Okay, look. Dialogue is easy. Let me tell you how it works."

    "Fine."

    "Do you hear the words coming out of my mouth?"

    "Yes? What's your point?"

    "Good grief. I think I'll shut up now."
     
  16. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Check out I am legend, the novel, not the lame movie. It has virtually no dialog at all, but it is an awsome read, at only 182 pages long.
     
  17. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    I've read it but I'd never thought about it. Thanks!
     
  18. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    LOL!! :D Thanks EyezForYou! I see what you mean. I guess practice is where I'm heading now - watch out instant messanger!! :p
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most people don't talk like they IM (although sadly some do!). I make it a point to pay attention to conversations I hear in public places. Not so much for what they are saying, but how they phrase it. Like one gabby gossip who hangs around the laundromat: She was talking to her friend, and every other sentence was punctuated with "You know what I'm saying?" At one point she even said, "That's what I'm saying. You know what I'm saying?"

    Try to get a sense of how one person's speech pattern differs from another, and build up a database of speech patterns in your head (or in a notebook - it's probably worth not just trusting memory).
     
  20. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    I beg to differ.

    Again, you should observe how people talk, but never copy it. Absorb the natural speech pattern; but never reproduce it. Because, if you copy exactly how people talk, you will wind up with a bunch of uhhs... umms... likes... the words will fall flat. Not only will they look tedious--they will sound false. If you want to bore your readers, go ahead and talk like Obama; but, again, I beg to differ.

    Even the most brilliant spoken language tends to flatten into ordinariness when it is converted to written words. So no piece of writing can be defened on the basis of "that's-the-way-I-really-talk." The whole point of writing is to create something a whole lot better--more interesting, more thoughtful, and more effective--than you really talk. And to make it sound as natural and effortless as "real" talk. This is the great paradox of writing dialogue:

    Written sentences should sound like natural speech, but they can't be natural speech.

    Your voice, your face, your gestures can't help you. The actual words of speech can't help you. Transfering the exact speech with all the extraneous onomatopoeia can't help you. Pre-recording lisps and the uhms on a tape recorder definitely won't help you. What's left? Only one thing--the rhythm of speech. The rhythm of speech will allow you to craft better dialogue. This is why I suggested you read the message boards and instant messaging with a wary eye--for therein lies to secret of natural dialogue.
     
  21. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    And good prose.
     
  22. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    So the first principle of rhythm in writing, to capture the basic rhythm of speech, is to vary sentence length. The mere act of forcing yourself to vary the length of sentences will force you simultaneously to change their structure and therefore their wording--always for the better.

    So write with a talking rhytm, varying the length of your sentences to suit your material--which includes prose writing, and not just dialogue. Generally the short, sharp sentence gives emphasis: the long, involved sentence provides depth and color. Mix the two, and start with any order you like, to began stirring your overall paragraph with pinch of rosemary. Any order is right if it sounds right to your own inner ear. Write for that ear. Then you can create whole chapters.

    The second most important thing after rhythm (in written dialogue and exposition) is timing. The rhythm must march in sync with the timing of the beat, otherwise the entire sentence clashes like cymbals, and protrudes like pot-holes. These are some of the way you can create better diction and harmony, not just within dialogues, but also with regular day-to-day prose.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I agree fully with this, and never intended to imply otherwise. I don't mean you should pick up all the hesitation noises and every piece of small talk, but you should listen to hear what makes each person's speech pattern unique. The woman in the laundromat overuses that particular phrase. But if you play it down, you can suggest a habitual expression without carrying it to the point of tedium.

    Similarly, you might notice that the old guy on the dockside tends to leave off certain words. Instead of:
    he might instead say:
    or use a completely different word choice:
    I can think of a dozen variations, all consistent with one of these seasoned locals I've listened to along the coast. Those details of phrasing are mostly what I'm talking about, not a grunt by grunt recording.

    But the shorthand people use in IM really doesn't closely reflect how they speak in person, usually. They not only use shorthand expressions they wouldn't ues in a face to face conversation, they also adopt a different persona. As a thank you note or a letter to home from summer camp has a sound and feel different from an in-person conversation, so it is with instant message dialogue.

    That was the point I was trying to make. If you pay attention to "speech" patterns in IM, you won't get the same characterization you get from listening in on voice conversations.

    So be unobtrusively nosy, and pay attention to the details that make people's speech distinct.
     
  24. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    Well, I was talking about people who can talk coherently on IM or message boards. Not the ones who type full of acronyms and wIeRd caPitaLiZatIoN or little ;). I mean, it's not rocket science.
     
  25. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    There is a speech pattern. Typing closely reflects talking. We'll have to agree to disagree here.
     

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