1. OBrien90
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    OBrien90 New Member

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    Natural dialogue?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by OBrien90, Nov 22, 2010.

    Hello everyone,
    This is my first post here on this site, so a couple things about me. I'm chemistry student, working a couple different jobs at the moment. I consider myself a halfway decent writer (though I decided against it as a career choice) but I have yet to attempt a lengthy work of fiction. Ever since I read Orwell's 1984 in highschool I've been toying with the idea of writing a novel, which probably won't ever amount to anything but it'll be nice for me to get the thoughts out. And I enjoy writing. Anyway, due to recent events I'll have a bit more free time now, so I started the project again.

    My specific question is this: My plot flows well enough to satisfy me (for a rough draft anyway) as do the characters, descriptions, etc. But the vast majority of my writing has been opinion articles and factual papers, none of which require dialogue. And my dialogue itself sounds fine to me, but I have trouble blending the dialogue with the flow of the narration. It seems like my bits of dialogue break up the overall story, and leading into and out of these bits just sound awkward. I hope this makes sense, if not I can try to further elaborate. Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions? Has anyone else had a similar feeling when they first started writing a novel, and how did you make it work?

    Thanks!
    -Patrick
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need dialogue to be too real. At least I don't it would be pretty dull.

    I find my dialogue improves on the rewrite draft I now know the characters and how they interact better.

    Something I find useful is to have a dialogue box for each major/large part minor character containing words they may use but I wouldn't/
     
  3. OBrien90
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    OBrien90 New Member

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    Well, to be honest it's not the dialogue itself I'm having trouble with...its simply the mechanics of going from narration to dialogue back to narration that I find awkward.
     
  4. miss_darcy
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    miss_darcy Member

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    I understand what you mean. In research papers you're told that your quotes or facts need to flow with the sentence previous to it. But dialog in a story doesn't need that flow. True, it shouldn't really sound awkward unless you want what the character is saying to be awkward. But what first worked as practice for me is write all the dialog in the story first with very minimal description (I just usually leave it as "he said, she said" and the put a star as to what's making the plot move along (i.e. *Cecily goes to her bedroom) then I continue with the dialog. Then once I finish that, I go back and add detail, then I edit that, then I add even more detail where necessary. I hope that you found that helpful :)
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    hmm probably not the person to ask I write in first person present tense, mine goes from dialogue to a stream of thoughts ...

    These are examples of how I would handle it:

     
  6. OBrien90
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    OBrien90 New Member

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    Yes that is very helpful - thanks. I write in third person whenever I can, and I have a bad habit of trying to get everything down at once in my first draft. Writing the dialogue and basic plot structure first would definitely help. Thanks!
     
  7. miss_darcy
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    miss_darcy Member

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    no problem! Always here to help :)
     
  8. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    I understand your problem, and I might have a solution. Read some novels that have a lot of dialogue and examine the transitions. Harry Potter would be an excellent choice. Good luck :]
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I use my first draft to info dump all over the place. Just don't include it in the rewrite - however the info dump helps me come up with ideas and refine, alter and listen to the story.

    Don't expect too much from the first draft it can all be edited and changed.
     
  10. miss_darcy
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    miss_darcy Member

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    Exactly, I wouldn't expect a masterpiece from your first draft. When I had my first draft of my prologue I was just kind of info dumping and what not. But I refined it in my rewrite, and yeah it needs more work, but since that rewrite my entire plot changed, my characters have motives, and the idea behind it has just become better, so with every rewrite a story gradually gets better!
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    o'b...

    to learn how to do this, all you need do is take any 6 novels by 6 good writers down from your shelf and see how they did it!
     
  12. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to have problems with that, actually I had too much narration and too little dialogue in my writing, and retrospectively 'adding' dialogue would feel forced and unnatural. It gets better with practice, and you will get some kind of feel/flow for dialogue, and how to lead into it.

    Good luck.

    By the way, reading '1984' was what got me picking up pen and paper as well.
     
  13. Newfable
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    Newfable Senior Member

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    I’ve found what works best is a show-don’t-tell policy. Not everything needs to be spelled out for your readers, but keep essential information. I’ve recently reread 1984, and there’s plenty to see what I’m mentioning there. For instance, during the Two-Minute Hate, Winston mentions in his narrative that he finds himself cursing Goldstein alongside everyone else, despite his knowing that he holds Goldstein in higher regard than Big Brother.

    All of this is formed as simply exposition dashed with inner monologue in Winston’s voice and tone, when it could’ve easily been dialogue, going word for word with what Winston and his comrades were shouting during the Two-Minute Hate.

    I find that a good deal of movies (not all of them, mind you, just a good majority) ruin our idea of what “natural” or “realistic” dialogue is to other forms of writing. In screenwriting and playwriting, dialogue is far too important to write arbitrary lines. In fiction, long or short, it’s important to keep what’s essential. Every piece of dialogue doesn’t necessarily have to be groundbreakingly important, but it does need to move the plot forward, even if it’s in small increments.
     
  14. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    That's what I do. Well, to an extent. I've gotten better about not overdoing it. :p It gets easier the more you practice. Practice and reading a plethora of books is really key to learning. :)

    I definitely agree that you should never expect the first draft to be perfect. Do you ever expect the first draft of a research paper to be perfect? That's just what it is. The first draft and not the finished product so it's no big deal if it isn't stellar first time around.
     
  15. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine I have given up with lol I like the term zero draft for it - nearly always too much sex and magic.
     
  16. OBrien90
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    OBrien90 New Member

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    First off, thanks for all the helpful comments everyone - keep 'em coming!


    And honestly I think I have the opposite problem sometimes. I'm so used to trying to keep everything as concise as possible for papers, etc that I have trouble letting my characters ramble...and rambling is often what gives us the biggest glimpse into people's personality.
     
  17. Newfable
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    Newfable Senior Member

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    Well, I'd say insofar as it's in their personality to let them ramble. While readers like lively characters, at the same time, a massive wall of monologue or dialogue doesn't do much for pacing, save for keeping the story completely still.

    I had just read Snow Crash a while back, and towards the end, the main character expunges all that he's learned about what's at stake and what the problem is to his allies. It was about 2-3 pages long of nothing but monologue. While it was nice for everything that had happened to be explained clearly, it completely stopped the pacing and was the hardest part of the piece to get through.
     
  18. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    To start, I won't mention dialogue.

    What I find kills me most of the time when I read things is that the writer gets so lost on their own perceived ability to write descriptive prose that they forget that the story is about the characters and not the setting.

    While it's nice that someone can make a description of 'a crimson sky fading to an azure then the darkness of a deep blue as the sun sets upon an idyllic town skyline...' yadda, yadda...What does that do for the characters? It's ok to have that once in a while. An example is just a few moments ago, I walked to my kitchen. I live on the 13th floor in a neat little suburb of Chicago. It's late (I'm up cuz my knee hurts..) and I looked out the living room sliding glass door to a neatly lit town with old street lights, trees along the roads lit with Christmas lights and all set off with a blanket of lite fog. My reaction? "Pretty"...and that's about it. Most folks don't stop to long form detail in their mind about the visuals they see. They just react to it.

    Key is, the non-dialogue prose should be a companion to the dialogue and not a counterpoint. Descriptions of setting should really only be such when it is important to the story. Otherwise the non-dialogue prose needs to support the characters and weave in and out of the dialogue.

    People care about characters because they care about what is happening to people. A mountain may be a nice thing to describe but unless the story is about mountain climbing, there is no reason to give much detail of that mountain.

    If you think of writing as the dynamic and moving part of your story, you start to see a flow of the text and dialogue as seamless to one another. If, as you said, the transition between your text and dialogue is clunky, then you are essentially writing two different stories but just don't know it.
     
  19. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    To start, I won't mention dialogue right off the bat...

    What I find kills me most of the time when I read things is that the writer gets so lost on their own perceived ability to write descriptive prose that they forget that the story is about the characters and not the setting.

    While it's nice that someone can make a description of 'a crimson sky fading to an azure then the darkness of a deep blue as the sun sets upon an idyllic town skyline...' yadda, yadda...What does that do for the characters? It's ok to have that once in a while. An example is just a few moments ago, I walked to my kitchen. I live on the 13th floor in a neat little suburb of Chicago. It's late (I'm up cuz my knee hurts..) and I looked out the living room sliding glass door to a neatly lit town with old street lights, trees along the roads lit with Christmas lights and all set off with a blanket of lite fog. My reaction? "Pretty"...and that's about it. Most folks don't stop to long-form detail in their mind about the visuals they see. They just react to it.

    Key is, the non-dialogue prose should be a companion to the dialogue and not a counterpoint. Descriptions of setting should really only be such when it is important to the story. Otherwise the non-dialogue prose needs to support the characters and weave in and out of the dialogue.

    People care about characters because they care about what is happening to people. A mountain may be a nice thing to describe but unless the story is about mountain climbing, there is no reason to give much detail of that mountain.

    If you think of writing as the dynamic and moving part of your story, you start to see a flow of the text and dialogue as seamless to one another. If, as you said, the transition between your text and dialogue is clunky, then you are essentially writing two different stories but just don't know it.
     
  20. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure dialogue needs to flow together with the narration. When the speaker changes, it forms a natural break in the text, which may even be desirable, since it makes the change in speaker more noticeable. But it's hard to be sure of what you mean without seeing the actual text.

    Have you considered participating in the review room? As you may have seen, this site has a workshop system where you critique other people's work and get critiqued yourself. If you do, feel free to PM me when you've posted some dialogue.
     
  21. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, and if you want to make the switch between narration and dialogue smoother, I think it's useful to use body language. E.g:

    Notice how closely tied together the three sentences seem? The third sentence clearly refers to the first, tying them together, but the middle sentence (Bertrand's body language) indicate that Adam's actions and Bertrand's speech are related, making the bond even stronger.
     
  22. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    There are a few tricks that might make it easier.

    You can transition from narration into the dialogue in a few ways, such as:

     
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  23. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I find it flows better if you just start the dialogue, or put in description only afterwards.

    So like, erm...

    I wrote the above things only just now - it's not meant to be good writing lol. Either way though, that's how I write my dialogue. So instead of, "She ran across the field. She shouted, 'Wait for me!'" - I put it into one sentence and roll the dialogue in with the action, sorta. Oh I don't know how to explain this... o_O

    In short, instead of, "So-and-so said, 'Blah blah blah.' He walked across the room. He continued, 'blah blah blah'." - instead of that, I'd write, "'Blah blah blah," he walked across the room, 'blah blah.'" (or insert "and continued" in there, but it would be one sentence)

    Oh ignore me... :(
     
  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I absolutely LOVE your little dialogue! It's so lively and I love how you write out exactly what you mean by writing the dialogue out yourself! Made me smile :D
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just be more careful with your dialog tags... 'she ran across the field' isn't one, because it has nothing to do with speech... and a separated/continued line of dialog will not have a full sentence in the second half, as that example does...
     

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