1. Zcreative
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    Zcreative Contributing Member

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    Phone Conversations/Phone Messages

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Zcreative, Jan 18, 2009.

    I have a question about the above. I was writing a short story for fun, and I tried to write in a phone conversation, but it was choppy and pretty much a big paragraph of dialogue. Is that okay? Or is that bad. If anyone knows the proper way to write these, it would be much appreciated.

    Z ;)
     
  2. ConnorMack
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    ConnorMack Member

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    Well what I do is write one or both people in italics, to signify that they are talking over a phone. Say for instead, the story is centered around Sally, the phone rings, and Sally picks up the phone, it might go something like this.

    "Hello?" Asked Sally.
    "Hello." Replied her friend.
    "Oh hey!" Sally exclaimed joyfully. "How are you?"
    "I'm good, and you?"

    Does this make any sense? Or, if you're just writing a conversation between two people and not centering around just one person, you could just italicize the whole conversation.

    "Hey."
    "Hey. What's cracking?"

    I hope these examples help you.
     
  3. Noodleguy
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    Noodleguy Senior Member

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    Hmmm, I think it very much depends on your own style and what you want to convey with the conversation.

    Are the details of the conversation important? Then I would recommend keeping the whole thing. In an effort to break it up though, try and add additional text "in between the lines." Talk about what your character is doing while he talks on the phone. Is he twisting the phone cord? Oh, my bad, those haven't existed for years. Ahaha! Ummm, in that case, is he pacing while he talks on his wireless phone? Is he pulling his hair in frustration, straightening a crease in his jacket...and so on. Sometimes these can serve as a good way to break up dialogue. Also a good idea would be to include the character's thoughts (if your point of view is omniscient) as he talks. Write about why he says what he says. Is he frustrated? Happy? Sad? Bored? That sort of thing. The problem with this approach is that it solves your block of dialogue problem by...making it twice as long. At least it will be a much more varied and interesting block of dialogue though!

    On the other hand, sometimes it is a good idea to take exactly the opposite approach. If the details of the conversation aren't important, don't waste your reader's time. Say something talking about how the two "went through the basic formalities of introductions" or some such thing. Just skip over the "Hello? Hello! How are you? Good! Me too!" nonsense. Cut right to the meat of it! Just include the bare minimum necessary. That will once again solve your block of dialogue problem. The problem with this is that you are solving the Gordian Knot by cutting it in half, so to speak. Your passage might become too sparse of detail or realism to be enjoyable.

    The best approach to phone conversations, I have always felt, is somewhere in between those two styles. Don't bother with the unnecessary back and forth of Hello Hello How are You that comes with phone conversations. Just include the necessary stuff, BUT (and this is a big BUT) make sure you DO include everything you need to. That can include stuff not necessary to the plot too. Sometimes a lot of characterization can be found in the few lines of dialogue that come over a phone...take that advantage and grab hold of it! Most of all, fit it to your writing style. Making the conversation flow with the rest of your story can be difficult, but I am sure you can do it. If you want (I’m such a dork for having done this before) grab your own phone and “play out” the conversation with yourself. ONLY DO THIS WHEN YOU ARE HOME ALONE! Otherwise everyone thinks you are crazy! Like my family! But it can be an *excellent* way of telling whether dialogue is realistic, haha.

    Best of luck to you with your writing! :)
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First, stay with your POV. If your POV character or virtual character will only hear one side of the conversation, then one side is all you write.

    Then decide how much, if any, of the conversation is necessary to the story. Don't just quote phrases because it is what someone would actually say - as in any dialogue, it should have a purpose in futrthering the story, or it does not belong.

    Assuming you've decided the dialogue is necessary. If your POV character hears both sides of the conversation, then treat it as ordinary dialogue, as if the other person is right there in the room. Don't muck around with italics or other typographic drivel. It's dialogue, pure and simple.

    If you only hear one side of the conversation, each time the character you hear takes a turn in the conversation, it should ordinarily be a separate paragraph. The exception is a small number of very short phrases, seaparated by equally brief interruptions on the other end. Show the interruptions with em-dashes (in manuscript, use --):
    In a more substantive conversation, use beats to give the reader an indication of the length of pauses or the way the person on your end is reacting.
     
  5. Zcreative
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    Zcreative Contributing Member

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    Thank you everyone for your help, I feel enlightened :p. This really helps.

    Z ;)
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    pay attention to cog--he's right!
     
  7. Zcreative
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    Zcreative Contributing Member

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    I know, his was the shortest and seemed most like textbook format. All really helped though.
     

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