1. Photoshoped
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    Photoshoped New Member

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    Multiple people in a conversation.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Photoshoped, Dec 18, 2009.

    how would you do that in writing without putting "so-n-so said this" "another so-n-so said that"?

    at the moment, i just have initials infront of what they say...
    eg.

    Person A: words
    Person B: more words
    Person C: Even more words
    Person A: words again.

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    would that be how its done?


    thanks ahead.
     
  2. Coldwriter
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    Coldwriter New Member

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    I sent you a PM in reply to your question, an excerpt from a story as an example.

    Edit: I do have an opinion though, and others can chip in, too.

    Avoid repetitive tags that simply read "He said", "She replied" and so on. It becomes dull and doesn't provide the reader with anything about the character except telling us a response. We can figure that out with other clues.

    Personally, I love using motions, non-verbal behavior to communicate who is speaking and how. It sets the atmosphere, how each character is feels and may be thinking, etc.

    Example:

    "Hey, John! What are you doing?" Elisa asked

    "Not much." He said

    "Oh, I thought you looked busy." stated Elisa

    "Ah, leave him alone, Elisa. Can't you see he is in the middle of something?" Jack told Elisa

    "Okay. Well, I was just saying hi!" Elisa replied


    versus.

    Elisa spotted John working at the counter. "Hey John! What are you doing?"

    He stared at the computer screen. "Not much."

    "Oh. I thought you looked busy."

    John didn't respond.

    "Ah, leave him alone, Elisa. Can't you see he is in the middle of something?" John's neighbor, Jack, leaned over the cubicle wall and grinned.

    "Okay. Well, I was just saying hi!" Without missing a beat, Elisa returned to her desk.

    Is this a fascinating scene? No, it's simple for this example. The point is we move from bland no, movement, and mere "tells" into a showing what the characters are doing, how their feelings are expressed through that work and dialogue, and what kind of people they are. See the difference? Elisa becomes an animated, exciting person, oblivious to John's obvious indifference, who is also portrayed as cold and too into his work, or possibly too bored and feels that interaction with the lively Elisa is even a chore. Jack seems to know John and comes to the "rescue", sending Elisa away. His line and action suggest he is humorous and reveals a bit of his relationship with other two. Lastly, it is shown that the characters are probably in an office at work.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies iModerate Staff Member Supporter Reviewer Contributor

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    Assuming we are speaking within the framework of a story or novel and not within a script or screenplay...

    My take on this would be to ensure that the conversation is clear as to who is speaking to whom at any given moment and interject the odd dialogue tag here and there is an anchor point to keep things on track. I myself am fond of not using dialogue tags when not needed, but I do realize the need for the reader to have the occasional landmark to keep their bearings. The way you have shown in the quote above would not be acceptable to me personally as it is non-standard and detracts, but, I can assure you that there is a group here at the site which embraces all things avant guard and will rush to support your choice.
     
  4. Coldwriter
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    Coldwriter New Member

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    I forgot to add there is a thread on here started by LordKyleofEarth as an exercise of creating exciting dialogue, using different ways to show more than he said, she said. You might want to check that out. It's in the Word Game forum, I believe

    Agreed
     
  5. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious New Member Contributor

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    Agree on the action, I generally do not like saidisms though.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    With three or more people in the conversation, you will need either dialogue tags or beats on nearly every change of speaker. Moreover, the conversation is even less likely to be a series of direct responses to the preceding fragment.

    Each participant has his or her own agenda and focus, and there is often a jockeying for control, as well as a tendency to ignore parts of the conversation. Each person may be primarily listening to one person at a time, if anyone at all. So group conversations tend to be more fragmented in nature.

    Multi-person conversations are a special challenge to do well, but they can be rather fun, too.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not normally... and i doubt using that technique would pass muster with agents, publishers, or most readers...

    wrey and cog have offered good advice on this... i suggest you take a look at how it's been done by those who are generally considered 'good' writers, to see how multiple character conversation looks and works, when skillfully crafted...

    i agree that the best way is to give the participants 'bits of business' [as we say in screenwriting], between bits of dialog...
     
  8. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 New Member

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    Be careful with dropping tag lines from dialog between multiple people. You have to make certain that it is very, very clear who is saying the tagless line. I've seen books where it was only 2 people talking and tag lines were dropped on some dialog and I couldn't figure out who was saying what...even after re-reading it several times.

    Tag lines and beats are almost unavoidable when writing dialog between more than 2 people, and even between just 2 people they are needed, unless by the context of the sentence the reader can know who is saying it.

    An example of this would be 3 people arguing over which movie to see. Person A wants to see the newest slasher film, Person B wants to see an action movie, and Person C wants to see a comedy. You would know by the context of the sentences who is saying what when each person's agenda is that clearly defined. The argument might only be 10 statements long, and you could probably cut out half of the dialog tags. But if the conversation is not that clearly defined, if each person's motives are not clearly definable by the context of their statements, then tags and beats are needed to keep from confusing the reader.
     
  9. Photoshoped
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    Photoshoped New Member

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    alright, thanks for the help everyone.
     

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