1. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some Problematic Dialogue

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by AnonyMouse, Oct 15, 2008.

    While working on my novel, I ran into three cases where some weird types of "dialogue" come into play. I use the word dialog very loosely here, because although all three instances involve conversation between two characters, they're not typical "he said, she said" stuff.

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    Case #1:
    I have two characters typing messages to one another over the internet. I wrote it like I would any dialogue (double quotes, new paragraph for each "speaker" and tags) but I'm not sure if that's correct. Firstly, they're not actually speaking, so is it correct to use quotes? Secondly, how would I handle internet lingo such as "LOL" "ROFL" or "WTF"? Should I spell it out or write their messages exactly as it would appear on-screen? Also, does the time lapse (they're responding to one another's messages at intervals of ten minutes or more) make it more like writing letters than like actual dialogue?

    -----------------------------------------

    Case #2:
    My narrating character (first person POV) is listening in on a phone conversation. He can only hear one half of the conversation, but the pauses make it clear that someone else is speaking. How should I handle the inaudible half of the conversation?

    For example:
    If we could hear both ends of the convo, it might look like this:
    "Hello."
    "Is this Bob?"
    "Yes, ths is he."
    "How's it goin', Bob."
    "I'm doing fine."
    ...so forth and so on.

    But since my narrator can only hear one half of the conversation (i.e. imagine he's listening in on Bob) I'm debating whether I should write it this way:
    "Hello." "Yes, this is he." "I'm doing fine."
    or ths way:
    "Hello... Yes, this is he... I'm doing fine."

    -----------------------------------------

    Case #3:
    I have a character with a voice in his head. Although they share one body, they are two completely different characters. I haven't gotten to writing the chapter(s) told from his POV yet, but I intend to write "the voice" as italics and his responses to it as spoken dialogue. Would this be hard to follow? The fact that they are two minds in one body has already been established in earlier chapters, but I'm not sure if the readers will be able to follow what's going on; I don't want it to seem like he's talking to himself. If anyone has some suggestions of other ways to handle this, feel free to share.

    -----------------------------------------

    I don't know if there are standard ways to handle these situations; it may just be a matter of style. I'm not sure what to do. Any opinons (or facts) on this would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For any style of dialogue, it's ok to use standard quoting. Even internal dialogue (i.e. literal thoughts) CAN be quoted like spoken dialogue, axcording to the Chicago Manual of Style, although in that case it is more common to write the literal thoughts exactly like quoted dialogue but without the quotes (please DON'T italicize internal dialogue, unless requested by a publisher).

    So for case #1, I would stick with ordinary quoting. Leave the abbreviations as sent - that is the literal content of the dialogue.

    In case #2, each dialogue fragmment should be in its own paragraph. The pauses can be expressed in beats (narrated action inserted into dialogue):
    and so on.

    Beats can also be used in case #1 to show delays, such as the character the POV is focused on going to the refrigerator and grabbing a beer between messages.

    Case #3 should be treated exactly like a dialogue between two external people. It's an "internal dialogue in a physical sense, but logically it's a conversation between two people.

    Always put dialogue fragments in separate paragraphs if the "speaker" changes, even if you cannot hear both (all) sides of the conversation.

    See my blog entry, He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue.
     
  3. Scarlett_156
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    Scarlett_156 Active Member

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    Case #1: Italicize it all. Make it obvious in some way who's type-talking by establishing character; that is, one character uses a lot of "netspeak" and the other doesn't use so much:

    Case #2: If it's the same person talking, don't break it up. You may wish to intersperse some action so it won't seem too dull or confusing:

    Case #3: (Two characters, one head.) I'm actually an old hand at this because of the series of novels I've been workin on for the last ten years or so about a female wizard who often communicates mentally with her bound demon--usually it's mental dialog, though not always, as sometimes the demon materializes and she speaks to him "in person". In this particular series, in fact, the two will even communicate via mental code, if there are other magicians around who might be able to sense their conversation.

    I italicize the entire conversation with paragraph breaks in between, and make it obvious who's talking, to wit:

    I hope this is helpful to you. These are my own conventions, but they are also fairly standardized--I have read thousands and thousands of books during my long (some might say TOO long) life and so I've observed that the above examples constitute "what works".

    Have fun! yours in Chaos, Scarlett
     
  4. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    I used chat program dialogue in a story I wrote about six years ago. I indented it as though it were block quotes and used a script format, so it looked like a transcript of a chat program. I included chatspeak and emoticons because, well, it's what they said.

    I've seen a similar approach used elsewhere. I'd avoid putting it in quotation marks; it would seem confusing to me, at least, and to anyone else who spends a lot of time chatting.
     
  5. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    If you want to be like Stephen King, italicize all your thoughts.
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    As for the chat program part, I would like to see it as a real chat, with their nick names and everything.

    Nocturnal: Hey, we going out 2 night?
    LoveBunny: Yeah, there's this new club I want to check out.

    I think that would be cool and natural, because who doesn't know what chat looks like?
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You could treat it all as a block quote, with the nicknames as part of the quoted text. In that case, you aren't really dealing with it as dialogue so much as quoting what's on the computer screen.

    What's the difference? It's the difference between someone reading a stack of correspondence rather than taking part in that correspondence - it's removed by one level. In that mode, you don't insert dialogue tags or beats to interpret or alter the pace of the conversation. Every time you want to interact with an actual participant, you have to "step back".

    That's not necessarily a bad thing - you just need to be aware that tha is a consequence of the approach, and see if it works for your story.
     
  8. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    I would say to do what feels natural, and if it doesn't feel natural, don't do it. Everyone's got their own ideas, but when it comes to IM, or other odd instances of dialogue, there isn't really enough precedent to come up with grammatical rules regarding it. Not yet, anyway.
     

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